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Diamond Lake residents have until the first week of May to decide on a plan for sanitary sewer system

WILLMAR -- A committee that's studying what kind of sanitary sewer system Diamond Lake should construct said it will bring an answer to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners by no later than May 5.

The commissioners said Tuesday they want to see the project completed by 2010 in order to meet deadlines for fixing septic systems that are out of compliance.

The commissioners have offered to extend the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District lines to Diamond Lake, but residents of the southern Kandiyohi County lake undertook their own studies to consider other options, including a cluster system or continuing with individual systems.

Joyce Wittman, a member of the Diamond Lake Committee, said their extensive studies and meetings have resulted in educating residents about the benefits of the different options.

In January of this year Diamond Lake residents were sent ballots to vote on which system they preferred. With 84 percent of the ballots returned, Wittman said 70 percent were in favor of individual systems and/or cluster systems. Thirty percent were in favor of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District's centralized system.

"That's where we're at today," Wittman told the commissioners.

"We needed to register how the citizens voted," she said. "But we're still studying the options."

If the lake residents decide to proceed with individual or cluster systems, they could establish an independent subordinate district. For that to happen, they need a government entity to serve as the fiscal agent to handle grant money.

Wittman said Harrison Township will be asked to be that agent. If the township does not agree, she asked if the county would serve as the fiscal agent. The commissioners did not offer an answer to that.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said he's received many phone calls on the issue and urged Wittman to develop a workable plan quickly.

Commissioner Richard Falk said he believes some Diamond Lake residents are hoping that if the projects drags on long enough, nothing will happen. "I can assure them that is not the case," Falk said. He said the county would be "derelict" to let the project slip by.

"We have no intention of walking away from the project," Wittman said. "We're not afraid of taking on the challenge."

Falk said the project should be completed by July of 2010 to meet the two-year deadline.

Wittman blanched at that deadline, questioning if Falk meant completion of the plan or completion of construction.

Falk said construction should be completed by 2010. "Somebody has got to get the wheels going," he said. "Time is of the essence."

Madsen said if federal stimulus dollars are going to be accessed, a decision needs to be made and a plan put in place very soon.

If a plan isn't submitted until 2010, a system won't be constructed until 2012, Madsen said. Waiting that long would be "deplorable," he said. "We've got to move ahead."

Madsen said some lake residents are worried they won't be able to use or develop their lake lot if a sanitary sewer system is not constructed in the near future.

"We won't back off," Wittman said. "Doing nothing is not an option."

Wittman said she would provide the commissioners with a final report by May 5, or earlier.

In other action:

- County Administrator Larry Kleindl gave the commissioners an update on the budget review process he and department heads are undertaking to prioritize services and programs and the fiscal impact if those programs were reduced or eliminated. One part of the process will be done by the end of March.

Sometime in May, the commissioners will be asked to review all 23 departments and rank the services. Kleindl said this process is fairer than an across-the-board budget reduction and will serve residents better.

- The commissioners set the Board of Equalization meeting for 6 p.m. June 15.

- Disaster credits for property taxes were granted to six homes that were damaged in last summer's tornado, three homes that were destroyed by fire and one home that had mold and structural damage.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750