County project hopes to establish accurate property boundaries

Section corners will each have monuments

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Morrison County is seeking to expand the services provided by a county surveyor, hoping to do so without the cost of a full-time licensed employee and crew.

All property in Morrison County is linked to the original public land system (PLS). With an up-to-date and modern evaluation and regular maintenance of the PLS, the citizens of Morrison County can count on a system with greater integrity, less cost for private survey work and less discrepancy among professionals, County Administrator Deb Gruber said.

“I feel Morrison County has the responsibility to ensure and maintain the PLS as accurately as possible, especially given that the property tax system relies on land assessment which is based on proper land description and records,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “We’ve done a good job with the tools we’ve had, but it would be nice to give staff and the public easier access to a licensed professional.”

A request for proposal (RFP) has been put together by a team of county staff with the help of the Goodhue County Surveyor and legal counsel. The RFP is scheduled to be released Monday, with bids due by March 1, 2013.

The new arrangement will help provide staff, Morrison County officials and the general public with the professional expertise of a licensed surveyor. It will ensure the platting process is accurate and provide advice on legal descriptions, engineering projects, easements, the transfer of property and other property boundary issues, Gruber said.

Another major factor in the RFP is to ask for a plan to establish Morrison County coordinate positions at every corner of the original PLS for the county. This multi-year project will be the foundation for survey work in the future and help bring the system up to date.

Corner survey monuments typically include a two- to three-foot long cast iron pipe below ground, capped with a metal plate with identifying information stamped on it.

The current arrangement with Kevin Festler as county surveyor has been extended through Sept. 1, 2013. It could be extended again if the contract draft exceeds the timeline.

The county hopes to have a draft contract and short-term and long-term project reviews in place by July 1, 2013. Special considerations will be a timeline and available budget dollars. The initial costs will likely be covered by county recorder compliance funds. Eventually, tax levy dollars will need to be committed.

The new contract will require the respondent to: review final subdivision plats, registered land surveys and common interest community plats for compliance with Minnesota statutes and Morrison County ordinances; provide surveys for Morrison County projects as requested by the county engineer (i.e.: right-of-way survey or plat); provide assistance to county staff on survey- and property boundary-related questions and to identify what, if any, office hours will be maintained.

“Kevin Festler is not being paid for calls made to him by staff or for other assistance on county issues with the general public,” said Gruber. “He’s been very good and willing to help but we can’t keep asking him to do that.”

“This isn’t going to magically solve all boundary issues currently existing in Morrison County,” Gruber said. “This may even bring more of those to light. But it will begin the process of correcting issues and clarifying points to help ensure there are fewer problems in the future. It’s going to be a long process but if we never start, we won’t ever finish.”

Section corners must be firmly and accurately set in order to build an accurate and reliable grid.

“This will include monumenting the entire county so that everyone surveying in the county will start at the same point,” Gruber said. “We can have more confidence and trust that we are all on the same playing field.”

“This will be a great help to our taxpayers,” said Commissioner Duane Johnson.