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EGF man pays taxes on nonexistent basement

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. - For a decade, East Grand Forks' Richard Osmundson paid property taxes on his house and the basement that it sits on. That's $36,420 altogether. The problem is, there is no basement. Because of someone's oversight - he bl...

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. - For a decade, East Grand Forks' Richard Osmundson paid property taxes on his house and the basement that it sits on.

That's $36,420 altogether.

The problem is, there is no basement.

Because of someone's oversight - he blames the county assessor's office; the assessor's office blames him - this fact went unnoticed until this year.

Normally, basements are said to make up 10 percent of the value of a home, which would mean the county owes him $3,642, or $364 per year. Earlier this month, he got a rebate of $234.

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Last week, Osmundson tried to appeal to the City Council but with little success.

"If the people in this town knew how I was treated in Crookston (the county seat)," he said, "people that are interested in buying a lot, they might change their minds."

City attorney Ron Galstad, however, advised the council to stay out of the fight.

The city's hands are tied. It's already turned responsibilities for assessments over to the county and Osmundson had exhausted his appeals there.

The county, Galstad said, left flyers requesting access to the home, so they would not have to estimate the value. Osmundson never got back to the county and never objected until now, he said. If assessors aren't allowed in, he said, county law says no appeal is possible.

Osmundson said he was on vacation at the time and hadn't seen any flyer. Plus, he said, anyone walking around the home could plainly see there are no windows into the basement.

City leaders were not without sympathy.

Council member Steve Gander said that whatever the city could do, it ought to. This sort of thing, he said, gives voters cause to complain about the lack of common sense in government.

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Mayor Lynn Stauss asked why the assessor didn't look at construction plans filed with the city, which would've shown no basement. At the very least, he said, the city ought to write a "letter of reprimand" to the county.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co. EGF man pays taxes on nonexistent basement By Tu-Uyen Tran 20071218

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