New sewer district cost raises questionsMany unhappy citizens voiced questions and concerns at a recent public hearing on a proposed sewer district in Douglas County.
By: By Erin Klegstad, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
Many unhappy citizens voiced questions and concerns at a recent public hearing on a proposed sewer district in Douglas County.
Central Lakes Region Sanitary District (CLRSD) officials presented project details as well as answered those questions during the well-attended hearing at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria May 31.
“This is a public meeting; we want to hear from you,” CLRSD general manager Pat Conroy told those in attendance.
And officials got an earful.
“There is a great deal of hardship in this room,” said Wally Tischer, who owns property on Devils Lake. “The majority of us in Brandon Township are not in favor. This thing has run wild. There’s not a need; it’s not feasible.”
The crowd answered with clapping and cheering.
Another resident questioned exactly what the board believed was feasible. “It went from $30 million to $52 million. There is no end to money that is gonna be thrown at this,” he said.
“The economic impact to Brandon Township will destroy families and homes,” another man added. “Who’s going to foot the cost for it if it goes over budget? The whole project comes down to trust.”
Frank Bisel with the Lobster Lake RV Association might take legal recourse, as Douglas County recently required Wild Ridge RV to install a new $100,000 septic system.
“We’re not very happy,” he said. “We just don’t think we should have to hook up to the [CLRSD] system.”
At a total estimated cost of $52.5 million, CLRSD is proposing to build sanitary sewer around lakes Miltona and Irene – the first of three phases – as well as around lakes Chippewa and Lobster, which will be completed in two other phases.
“The CLRSD board was created solely to protect the lakes, to make the community grow and for our future,” said board chair Jerry Haggenmiller about its formation more than six years ago.
A gravity collection system will route Phase I wastewater to Alexandria Area Lake Sanitary District (ALASD) for treatment. An agreement with that district has already been signed, said Dan Folsom, project engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting.
The district hopes to start construction this fall with a completion date of 2010.
Design on Phase II will likely start this fall; construction would start in fall 2009, with a completion date of spring 2011. Wastewater treatment will be stabilization ponds and spray irrigation, which is how the city of Brandon currently treats its wastewater.
A new mechanical wastewater treatment plant along the Long Prairie River will be built to treat wastewater from Phase III; the district is awaiting a permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to do so.
Phase III’s design process is complete and the easement acquisition is in progress. Construction is set to start this fall, with a completion date of 2010.
All types of wastewater treatment options were reviewed in-depth. “The board feels that what we’ve presented to you is the most responsible way to handle wastewater,” Conroy said.
Funding for the three phases varies. Phase I will primarily be funded by a $12 million low-interest loan from the United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Program as well as a $2 million grant from the Water Resources Development Act.
Phase II’s $12.5 million funding will likely be a low-interest loan from the USDA Rural Development program as well.
Rural development grants are also a possibility for the first two phases.
Phase III will likely receive financing from two Public Facilities Authority funds – $23.5 million from the state revolving fund and $2.5 million from the wastewater infrastructure fund.
“We’re doing our best to work aggressively with other government entities [on funding],” Haggenmiller said.
The initial assessment for all users would be $10,000 amortized over 30 years. A user fee of $20 per month would start in 2010 and would increase annually. Property taxes would fill in the gap and are projected to end in year 20.
The average cost for a $200,000 home is projected to be $112 per month – a number the CLRSD board feels is feasible. However, if the initial assessment were paid upfront, the monthly payment would be $53.
“We try to determine the best financing to repay the loans,” said Patty Kettles with Springstead, Inc., project financial advisor.
“The timing is pretty good; it’s only going to get more expensive as time goes on,” Conroy said.
Homeowners would be required to hook up to the system within one year of its completion.
Homes located 300 feet or more from the line will not be required to connect to the system or pay a user fee; they will, however, be required to pay the $10,000 assessment.
The next steps
The CLRSD board will now consider all of the input from the public hearing. It must order a project within the next six months; if not, another public hearing is required.
The project’s scope cannot be increased without another public hearing.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For copies of Central Lakes Region Sanitary District’s public hearing presentation, log onto www.lobsterlake.org or www.chippewalake.org.
To find out the financial impact to your property, log onto www.springsted.com/default.asp?app=clrsdptc.
Project general manager Pat Conroy can be reached at (218) 770-5956 or email@example.com.