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Willmar panel OKs preliminary budget for western sewer line

WILLMAR -- The $4.97 million preliminary budget for the western interceptor sewer line has been approved by the Willmar City Council's Finance Committee. The approval is a recommendation to the council, which will consider the budget on April 18.

The 2.46-mile line proposed for construction along the city's western border will serve the new industrial park, and serve west and northwest Willmar where the current sanitary sewer system is at capacity.

Even though the city likely will not build the line until next year, the city is incurring some cost for design work, engineering, surveying and purchasing utility easements, according to Michael Schmit, city administrator.

"We have to have a budget in place in order to pay those bills,'' he said.

Part of the reason for waiting to build: The Federal Aviation Administration has not released to the city the old airport land.

The budget, presented to the committee on Monday, proposes using $1,453,656 in revenue from the local option sales tax to pay for the portion of the interceptor that passes through the old airport where the industrial park is planned.

Voters approved using revenue from the seven-year, half-percent tax for industrial park development and other projects.

Committee Chairman Denis Anderson said the council has not yet decided whether sales tax revenue should be used to pay for the project.

The preliminary estimate was included in the facilities plan that the council approved in February and sent to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for approval. Officials have said MPCA approval will allow the plan to be placed on the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority's funding list.

The western interceptor will carry wastewater to the southern interceptor sewer, which carries wastewater to the new treatment plant located five miles west of the city.

Willmar is financing the wastewater project with a Public Facilities Authority loan. Schmit said the project was under budget and city officials asked the Public Facilities Authority for permission to use those excess loan funds to finance the western interceptor.

The persuasion attempt included assistance from state Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar. But the authority denied Willmar's request and is requiring the city to apply for a loan for the western interceptor, according to Schmit.

In related business, the committee asked city staff to obtain quotes from appraisers on the fees they charge for appraising real estate market values.

Committee members made the request after discussing the fee proposed by Ruhland Commercial Consultants of St. Cloud for appraising the market value of 13 properties where the city proposes permanent utility easements for the western interceptor.

In a letter to City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday, Ruhland proposed the city pay $1,500 for each parcel, for a total cost of $15,000. Halliday proposed using Ruhland again because the firm appraised real estate acquired for the southern interceptor, according to Schmit.

Committee member Rick Fagerlie questioned the amount of Ruhland's fee. Fagerlie said it appears Ruhland was using a rate schedule used by the state of Minnesota for reimbursing appraisers for doing land condemnation appraisals.

Fagerlie, himself an appraiser, said he was familiar with the rate schedule, and he said Ruhland's fee seemed a little bit excessive for the amount of time and because all the parcels are pretty close together.

"It would take a couple days of viewing and checking out comparable sales,'' Fagerlie said in an interview. "The main part's going to be writing the report.''

Fagerlie said the cost of writing a report for each parcel would probably be in the $800 to $1,200 range.

"The appraisers I've talked to that do this work, that's what they normally charge,'' he said.

The committee agreed to take Ruhland's proposal for information and Fagerlie suggested the city obtain quotes from other appraisers.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150