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Bird Island balks at co. ditch cost; Renville Co. may as well

OLIVIA -- The city of Bird Island has balked at a recommendation by viewers for County Ditch 66 that the city pay an annual outlet fee of $7,000 for its ongoing maintenance.

Renville County may balk as well.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday to postpone action on the recommendation until it has a chance to review the issue again next week.

Board chairman Paul Setzepfandt said the Bird Island City Council voted Monday to reject the viewers' recommendation and instead offer to pay an annual outlet fee of $2,500.

For budgeting reasons, the City of Bird Island had requested a set, annual outlet fee.

The viewers reviewed previous ditch history and calculated that the city's share of maintenance costs for the system would range from $2,500 to $16,000 a year, based on the ditch history and a redetermination of benefits completed for the 1998 improvement.

Setzepfandt said the city had two main objections to the viewers' recommendation.

The city has greatly reduced its discharge into the ditch since undertaking an extensive project to separate its storm and sanitary sewer systems. Its discharges dropped to 30 million gallons last year and could be lower this year.

Also, the city noted Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative is charged $6,000 a year to outlet 180 million gallons during its six-month campaign period to a county ditch system. The city objects to paying a higher outlet fee when it is discharging one-sixth the quantity of water and over a longer time frame.

The commissioners have the option to set a fee different from that recommended by the viewers, but must hold a public hearing before doing so. The commissioners noted other parties in the ditch system could object, since they could see higher maintenance assessments due to a cap on Bird Island's responsibility.

The redetermination assigned benefits to those whose farm lands are benefited by the drainage as well as the city of Olivia, which requested to be removed from the system since a large diversion channel now carries the water around the city. The ditch had previously been funneled through an undersized, underground pipe in the city and had caused basement and street flooding problems.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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