City Council votes to establish task force to study flooding issues

WILLMAR -- The idea of establishing a task force of citizens to find possible solutions to storm water flooding problems was approved by the Willmar City Council Monday night.

WILLMAR -- The idea of establishing a task force of citizens to find possible solutions to storm water flooding problems was approved by the Willmar City Council Monday night.

The idea of establishing the task force was raised by council member Steve Gardner. He said such a task force, made up of community members, agencies, city staff and others would gather information and address storm water issues.

Gardner said he got the idea from resident Dave Becker who, at the Aug. 4 council meeting, said he'd volunteer to serve on a citizens' group to help the city devise a comprehensive plan to solve recurrent flooding problem.

A few other homeowners joined Becker in talking about street and intersection flooding that occurred when 2.8 inches to more than 3 inches of rain fell the morning of July 31. City officials described the rain storm as a 50-year event.

The idea of forming a citizens' group has also received the support of the Willmar Design Center. The center's board voted at the Aug. 13 meeting to support establishing a task force to work on storm water solutions.


Council member Jim Dokken offered the motion to establish the task force and Gardner seconded the motion. Those voting in favor were Dokken, Gardner, Denis Anderson, Bruce DeBlieck and Rick Fagerlie. Doug Reese voted against. Council members Ron Christianson and Cindy Swenson were absent.

Gardner said the task force will help efforts in establishing solutions to storm water issues. Gardner said he does not intend the task force to be a slap in the face of council or staff members who have been working on the issues.

"I think it's only useful to help inform people about what has been done, what could be done and I believe it would need to involve different stakeholders, city staff, residents, Lake Wakanda folks, state and federal agencies,'' he said.

He said it was time to involve citizens in a collaborative effort to have them become part of the solution. He envisioned the task force to be something like the housing task force, which the council established last year to seek solutions to deteriorating housing conditions.

Reese said he wasn't sure how much will be accomplished by having a task force. Reese said he has confidence in city staff and engineering services, and he thought the city had a good direction on what was needed to be done.

"I think if we take these actions, we're going to be improving our water detention because we'll be slowing the water down,'' he said.

DeBlieck spoke in favor of the task force. He said staff members are addressing the issues. "But with the help of the task force maybe we can look at and capture some things that maybe staff or the council may miss,'' he said.

Anderson said he had reservations about the idea. He said good solutions may surface. "I've preached we have to have a plan. We have a plan, follow through on it first,'' he said.


Fagerlie said he would serve on the task force. He said the more people are involved, the more people will be educated. He said most of Willmar is built on swamp land, and he said he's had to take steps to protect his home when he's lived at different locations in town.

"If nothing else it will buy us some time and the community will be talking about it,'' he said.

Mayor Les Heitke said other cities have flooding problems, and he said homeowners and businesses will have to pay for costly solutions. He said city staff have offered some good suggestions, such as water detention at Garfield Park, but he said some council members shot down the suggestions.

Heitke said the council can have a task force, but he wanted people to attend the meetings.

Gardner said he'd serve and said he expects the group could return with recommendations when the new council convenes in January.

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