OLIVIA -- Viewers are recommending that Bird Island pay an annual fee of $7,000 for discharging into Renville County Ditch 66, a number that is probably three times what the city is willing to pay.
The Renville County Board of Commissioners received the report Tuesday at its work session and will act on it at its next meeting. Discussions indicated that the commissioners had concerns about the fee as well.
The city had asked for an annual outlet fee for budgeting. Otherwise, it would be assessed costs as maintenance projects took place in future years.
The viewers said estimates for annual maintenance costs ranged from $2,500 to $16,000. Commissioner Paul Setzepfandt, of Bird Island, said the $7,000 fee appears to be an attempt to find the middle.
The viewers noted that Bird Island receives 27.3 percent of the benefits of the ditch, based on findings for the 1998 improvement project. Even though the city has replaced a portion of its tile as part of its project to separate its storm and sanitary sewer lines, the viewers determined that the city continues to benefit from a significant length of original tile line.
Setzepfandt said he believed the city was estimating that its share of costs would be closer to $2,500 per year. The community of approximately 1,100 people -- about 400 households -- is struggling with its share of costs for major storm, sanitary and water improvement projects undertaken in recent years.
He also noted that the $7,000 fee is higher than the $6,000 outlet fee that the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative is charged for its outlet into a ditch system that has a smaller capacity and is more flood-prone than County Ditch 66. Also, the sugar factory discharges much larger volumes of treated effluent for much of the year than Bird Island, he pointed out.
County Ditch Inspector Larry Zupke told the commissioners they have the authority to set a fee different than what is recommended by the viewers, but that they would need to hold a public hearing in order to do so.
County Ditch 66 has been a long-standing issue for Bird Island, Olivia and the farmers whose lands are also drained by it. The ditch originally was funneled through an undersized, underground pipe in Olivia and caused basement and street flooding problems in the community. A new and larger channel was excavated to go around Olivia to resolve that problem. The costs for the improvement were assessed to all of the upstream farm and urban properties.