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Redetermination of county ditch benefits under way on eight systems

WILLMAR -- A process to figure out how much certain landowners should pay to maintain public drainage ditch systems is under way in Kandiyohi County.

The redetermination of benefits of 11 public ditch systems began this year. The process is nearly completed on eight systems that are in the Hawk Creek Watershed.

Over the next decade or so, the county intends to review the benefits for all the county ditch systems.

Most ditch systems are still being assessed to landowners based on the original benefits of having water drained from their land. Some of those benefits were established more than 100 years ago.

Changes in land use have required a change in who pays, and how much they pay, for the upkeep of the ditches.

The county has hired ditch "viewers" who are working with the county and city of Willmar to determine precise contributing watershed boundaries and updated hydraulic information.

Five of the ditch systems have municipal storm water, and the city is preparing petitions to take over sections of three of those ditches that are in the city limits.

In a written report, Loren Engelby, the county's drainage inspector, said "these details are unique to storm water and have taken more time than anticipated."

Kandiyohi County Board Chairman Richard Falk was not pleased that the city had not submitted petitions for the transfer of ownership of the ditches. He said the city was supposed to have done that "months ago" and said their delay is "just intolerable."

Public Works Director Gary Danielson said the city does intend to take over the ditches and he expects the paperwork to be submitted soon.

Falk also questioned what progress had been made to reroute County Ditch 23A as part of the project to restore Grass Lake and ease storm water problems in the city.

Commissioner Richard Larson said Sen. Joe Gimse became involved with that project and was intending to carry legislation forward but that Gimse has now asked that it be postponed. "It's frustrating," said Larson.

Falk said the county should appoint a committee to work on the project.

"We'll get a jump on it," said Larson.

"And get a jump on our senator to get that process going again," said Falk.

In other action:

- The commissioners were informed that Meeker County Housing and Redevelopment Authority is requesting that Kandiyohi County take over administrative work for Meeker County. Kandiyohi County provides the same service for McLeod County's HRA.

- The board adjourned until 6 p.m. on Dec. 2 when the county will hold its truth-in-taxation hearing. County Administrator Larry Kleindl said residents should be reminded that the intent of the hearing is to discuss the proposed 2011 budget and levy. It's not meant to discuss property values or property taxes. Kleindl said he did not want people to be "disappointed" if they came to the meeting to talk about their personal property taxes only to be told that topic would not be discussed.

- Special assessment of $16,462 was placed on property in Hawick belonging to Bert Wojcik. The county spent the money to clean up asbestos and demolish a building. The charge was put on the property taxes. While the cleanup looks good, Commissioner Dennis Peterson said the assessment is more than the property is worth.

Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750