Lake sewer project rests on shoulders of residents
WILLMAR -- A proposal to bring sanitary sewer services to homes on three lakes near Spicer was presented to nearly 400 people who attended informational meetings over the weekend. Those residents will now have to mull over the facts and figures a...
WILLMAR -- A proposal to bring sanitary sewer services to homes on three lakes near Spicer was presented to nearly 400 people who attended informational meetings over the weekend. Those residents will now have to mull over the facts and figures and decide if the project goes forward or not.
The Kandiyohi County Commissioners will ultimately have the final vote, but Commissioner Dennis Peterson said that action will be based on "what a majority of the people want."
Peterson said residents of George, Nest and Henderson lakes will likely be asked to vote on the project. A timeline for that decision wasn't discussed.
The project isn't an all or nothing deal. The service could be provided to one or more lakes, or even segments of some lakes, depending on what people want.
Cost is the primary issue.
The project is estimated at $6.5 million. Property owners would pay about $17,600 to build the system, a $60 annual service fee, monthly use charges and pay for any maintenance on their grinder pump. The cost isn't "chicken feed," said Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.
Waiting to replace individual septic systems with a sanitary sewer collection system will only get more expensive as time passes. He said the construction cost will increase 5 percent each year.
Surprises in the market could increase the cost even more. A similar project that's currently underway around Lake Florida increased 17 percent from the time the project was engineered to when bids were accepted this spring because of skyrocketing oil prices, said Danielson.
That increase was offset by a $4.9 million low interest from the state's Public Facilities Authority.
A portion of that low-interest money was used to build a six-mile trunk line from Lake Florida to Spicer. The line passes by George, Nest and Henderson lakes and would service residents there. Several people asked about getting assistance to help pay for the individual service lines and common low-pressure lines around the lakes that would tie into the trunk line.
One man said that since "the lakes belong to everyone" the cost should be shared to improve the lakes' water quality by replacing individual septic systems with a new treatment system.
But the chances of getting more low-interest loans are slim.
The county has already submitted an application to get a state loan for the project in case the it does proceed, but Danielson said new rule changes have made it more difficult for lakes to get funding for installing sewer systems.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, told the group on Saturday that small towns that need financial help installing sewer systems have become a high priority for the Public Facilities Authority. He said those small town residents are asking why -- in their words -- "rich lake owners" have received assistance for sewer projects when municipalities have not.
Johnson said efforts are continuing to search for new federal and state funds for lake projects.
Danielson said the lakes' residents have already benefitted from the state loan because it was used to build help the trunk line they would use.
Kandiyohi County taxpayers have also participated in this project. The county paid for about 25 percent of the cost of the trunk line, anticipating that lakes' residents will hook into the system and pay back the investment with assessments, said Danielson.
Engineering studies indicate 73 percent of the current septic systems on the three lakes do not meet current compliance standards. Potential changes in septic system inspections on the state and local level could make it more difficult for those systems to remain in place on lakes.
Danielson said residents will have to weigh the facts and come to their own conclusion about whether to proceed with the project.
Lake Florida residents studied different options, like a cluster sewage treatment system, for several years before unanimously agreeing to ask the county to be brought into the Green Lake system. That project will be completed next year.
Diamond Lake residents voted recently not to participate in a proposal to bring sewer services there.