EAST GULL LAKE -- Both sides of an often contentious debate for and against a proposed $6 million East Gull Lake sewer project said progress was made toward a solution Thursday afternoon.
The city estimates the proposed collection system will cost $4 million and the treatment plant costs will be $2 million.
City council member Dave Kavanaugh said numbers will not be confirmed until the project goes out for bids. Bid documents are not expected to be ready until the city council's March meeting. The city's cost for the project, taking into consideration extra system capacity for city growth, is expected to be $1,233,760.
The committee recommended costs not to exceed $8,500 per ERC, or equivalent residential connection. Residents would have 20 years to pay the charge.
"I think the numbers are solid," Kavanaugh said. "I think it's a good proposal. I think it could work. ... I think this is a real good start right here."
John Simons, seasonal resident who has been opposed to the project, said: "We've made more progress this afternoon (than we have) since 1989."
Simons said the issue has antagonized and upset people in the community. Simons said there are people who will still be against it if the costs were $1,000. Simons said there is work to be done on both sides and cohesiveness, imagination and cooperation are needed to make it a reality.
Kavanaugh said if the resorts bought extra ERCs looking at their own growth needs, that could help the overall project. The committee considered what those charges may be and if there would be a discount for a bulk purchase. If the city needed the ERCs later for its own growth, Kavanaugh said it could buy them back in the future.
"It could go a long way to help get the project if the resorts do step forward," Kavanaugh said. Resorts have been using the majority of the city's sewer system capacity, but they pay for that as well.
But there are still items to be hammered out, such as whether there should be charges for guest cabins and how to deal with empty lots or large lots with the potential for later subdivision. In regard to vacant lots, the committee discussed putting in a stub, or a T-connection to the sewer pipe for a $2,000 charge and whether that should be done right away or left as an option for homeowners. A stub's cost is typically a quarter of an ERC, or dwelling unit. Other questions involved whether property owners should be charged a premium if they do not hook up immediately.
The issue that seemed to create the biggest hurdle was how to handle guest cabins and whether there should be a ERC charge or a user fee.
Tom Forsythe, seasonal resident, said he would oppose guest house charges. Kavanaugh said it has been a city policy to charge guest houses a 1/2 ERC. There are currently 13 such properties with those charges.
Simons said those are questions people could consider longer. He suggested keeping the committee's actions as simple as possible.
After a number of heated meetings, the latest East Gull Lake discussion regarding the proposed sewer expansion was cordial in tone. The wastewater committee will meet again before the Feb. 3 city council meeting.
"We'll know a lot more after that meeting," Kavanaugh said.
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