Public: Spend what's needed and get it done

WILLMAR -- Spend the additional estimated $7 million to $9 million on an alternate sewer pipeline route and construct the new wastewater treatment plant four miles west of Willmar as originally planned.

WILLMAR -- Spend the additional estimated $7 million to $9 million on an alternate sewer pipeline route and construct the new wastewater treatment plant four miles west of Willmar as originally planned.

That seemed to be the message, judging from comments from nearly two dozen of the 75-80 city and area residents attending an informational meeting held by the Willmar City Council Tuesday night.

Council members are facing three options, and they sought public comments as consultants continue working to keep the plant's design phase on schedule. To maintain the schedule, the council must decide during the next three to four weeks whether the plant should be built at a new site 2½ miles closer to Willmar; whether the city should seek legal approval to build the pipeline on land where the owner has denied access to the city; or select an alternate route.

After he closed the meeting, Mayor Les Heitke told the Tribune that the majority of comments were those who favor the original proposed location at the city brush site, four miles west of the city.

"Not everyone spoke, but of those who spoke the majority were voiced in that direction,'' he said. Heitke said the council may make its decision either at the Feb. 20 meeting or the first meeting in March.


City Administrator Michael Schmit said the city hit a stumbling block at County Road 5 where a landowner will not allow consultants to perform soil tests and do survey work on the land along the proposed route of the sewer interceptor.

The preferred route is straight west along 28th Avenue Southwest, which becomes 30th Avenue Southwest outside of the city limits, to the brush site on County Road 116.

Schmit said the landowner has offered some land as an alternate treatment plant site. That land is in the vicinity of the intersection of County Road 5 and the state Highway 23/U.S. Highway 71 bypass, located about 1½ miles southwest of the city.

If the pipeline stopped short at County Road 5 and the plant was built there, the project cost would be reduced by an estimated $5 million, Schmit said.

If the city favored the original brush site location, the alternate route would take the pipeline north along County Road 5 to state Highway 40, then west to County Road 116, and then south to the brush site, adding $7 million to $9 million to the cost.

Willmar Township supervisor DuWayne Underthun said township supervisors have discussed the proposed new site among themselves and with township residents. He seemed to sum up the opinion of others attending the meeting at the Willmar Fire Station.

"You can gather they are not too happy having a new wastewater treatment plant in their backyard,'' he said. "It's hard to guarantee it will be odor-free. It will affect the quality of life of the residents there. That is our concern as a township board. I hope you look to the future and put it far enough away.''

Council member Steve Gardner, who represents the Second Ward in the southwest part of the city, said he was proud of the people of the city and surrounding area.


"In the two-plus years I have been on the council, not one person has come up to me and said you're spending too much money to solve this problem. They are saying you're doing the right thing,'' he said.

"If we bring this closer to town, we don't know what we're going to lose in terms of lost economic opportunity, lost development. We know what the costs are going to be if we go up and around''

Although Gardner said he'd like to fight the landowner in court, "honestly I think the folks are going to understand that we need to go up and around and locate this at the brush site. I think they'll welcome it and realize that we're doing the next right thing.''

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