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House passes new process for optional online county-owned land sales

Folks wanting to acquire some public land may need to do it in a more modern way.

Sponsored by Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL-Hibbing), HF3285 would allow counties, in addition to traditional newspaper notices, to advertise, sell, lease, or convey county-owned property on a county website and allow it to solicit and accept bids via an online auction process.

“It is an option; it’s about local control,” she said.

Passed 77-47 by the House Friday, the bill now goes to the Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisholm).

Clarifying language is included whereby proposals and leases that do not exceed $15,000 for a year could be negotiated and would not be subject to a competitive bidding process.

Sandstede said St. Louis County has conducted tax-forfeited property auctions online — usually open a couple weeks — and found significant success, including more bidders. The Department of Natural Resources has also moved to an online auction platform for some surplus land sales.

Concern was raised about people without access to the internet or high-speed internet. An amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) would have required a county to include a process for in-person bid solicitation and acceptance.

In addition to benefitting counties, Sandstede said the bill would increase convenience as people won’t need to take time off or travel a great distance to participate in an auction.

“Ultimately, this bill saves tax dollars, it creates more efficient government and it puts taxable land back on the tax rolls,” Sandstede said.

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