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Lake Florida sewer project decision challenging

WILLMAR -- The final cost of a proposed sanitary sewer project around Lake Florida is being put through the grinder -- literally.

The Kandiyohi County Commissioners heard presentations Friday about the technical differences between two different brands of sewage grinder pumps that will be installed at homes around Lake Florida as part of the $4.9 million project.

The county will be purchasing the pumps, but the cost will be passed directly to the 185 homeowners around the lake.

A $1,300 price difference between the two pumps is making the decision challenging for the county commissioners. Because construction bids for the project were higher than the estimates, homeowners will already be paying higher assessments than the $14,180 that was anticipated. Depending on which model of grinder is selected, the revised assessments would be $15,900 or $17,200.

Saving $1,300 on the grinder pumps is attractive and some homeowners have told the county they would prefer the less expensive model, called Environment One, said Gary Danielson, Kandiyohi County public works director.

But the county has experience with the more expensive grinder, called Hydromatic. There are 44 of them installed around Green Lake. They've worked well and have been easy to maintain, said Danielson.

The question, said Danielson, is whether there is "$1,300 worth of reasons" to choose the Hydromatic, especially when homeowners are paying the bill.

"We're really up in the air," said Marv Hey, president of the Lake Florida Improvement Association. The homeowners want a good product that'll meet their needs, but they are interested in keeping the cost in check.

The county board will hold a hearing on the project June 6. The lake association members will hold their annual meeting June 3. Danielson said he's hoping the association will discuss the options for the grinder pumps and have a strong recommendation for the county board.

The project has been in the works for about four years.

Initiated by the Lake Florida Improvement Association, it has strong support from residents.

The project isn't a simple one.

Sewage will go from the individual grinder pumps out to a collection line around the lake. From there it'll go through a new six-mile long trunk line that will go down County Roads 29, 9 and 32. That trunk line will connect to an existing sewer line for another six-mile ride to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District treatment center near Spicer.

The system will replace about 235 existing septic systems on Lake Florida. It's estimated that 72 percent of those systems don't meet current state codes.

Financing for the project will end up being very attractive for the county and Lake Florida homeowners. The county received a 20-year, $4.9 million loan from the Public Facilities Authority. Danielson said $1.2 million of that has a zero percentage rate. The rest has a 1 percent interest rate. The county will charge Lake Florida residents a 2 percent interest rate.

The residents will pay for 25 percent of the trunk line. Construction will begin in July. Some of the homes will be on-line this year, but the entire project won't be completed until 2007.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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