EAST GULL LAKE -- The East Gull Lake sewer extension project, which has dominated the city agenda for months, is now on hold pending a public hearing in St. Paul.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency verbally notified East Gull Lake City Council members of the July 22 hearing the day before the council hosted a public information session on the proposed project. The city has been discussing a $5.9 million wastewater expansion proposal for some time. The majority of council members have been in favor of the expansion. A few people have attended many council meetings expressing opposition to the plan.
Dave Kavanaugh, council member and wastewater committee chairman, said the MPCA Citizen's Board wants to take a look at the project. The city has not received a permit for the proposed system. The council was not given specifics from the MPCA regarding what the citizen's board will examine or how far reaching is the board's decision making.
"It came up right at the last minute," Kavanaugh said. "I'm assuming we'll have more information before the next council meeting. It seemed to me this doesn't happen all that often."
Locally, the MPCA has OK'd the project and said everything is fine as far as the state agency was concerned, Kavanaugh said. He said the public concerns regarding the project appear to be on finances and costs, not the system's design. Kavanaugh said he was informed a resident or residents from the area approached the MPCA Citizen's Board.
East Gull Lake Mayor Christopher Robinson said the city learned of the MPCA review verbally Friday but had not received written notice or better information regarding the citizen's board's proceedures. Robinson said the majority of the council supported the system's proposed expansion and continues to pursue it because they believe a central sewer system is necessary to maintain and improve the quality of groundwater and Gull Lake.
Kavanaugh said he is still neutral on the proposed expansion. And personally he said he wishes more investigation could have been done at the beginning to determine a need. This spring, Kavanaugh proposed further investigation in a motion that was not seconded.
The Wastewater Committee recommended a proposal from an engineering firm for $90,000 to do onsite inspections to find out if the area has failing or conforming septic systems. Projections were for about 250 inspections. The proposal was to start inspections in July and have the completed report by the end of August.
Robinson said the council listened to the proposal but did not find there was merit to it based on where they are in the process and on the information previously gathered. The city has spent about $600,000 on engineering costs on the project.
A public information session on the proposed system, set last Saturday at St. Thomas of the Pines Church, attracted about 100 people. Kavanaugh and Robinson both said the Saturday meeting went well.
"I think we had people on both sides there," Kavanaugh said, adding people who voiced their opinions may have been more against than in favor. The council presented detailed information on expected costs for sewer hookups, which ranged from $14,500 to $16,000. However, those numbers are still projections without confirmed construction costs.
With the current proposal, the city is not expected to start the project until spring 2004 at the earliest.
Kavanugh said people who are opposed do not feel there is a need for the sewer system and are concerned about the expected cost. But Kavanaugh said the hookup costs are not that outrageous when compared to other options in area cities.
Regardless, the project is now on hold until the city finds out what the MPCA Citizen's Board has to say on the matter.
"The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board considers and makes decisions on varied and complex pollution problems that affect areas of the state. These decisions are intended to achieve a reasonable degree of purity of the water, air and land resources of the state in order to provide for the maximum enjoyment and use of these resources for the welfare of the people," according to the MPCA Web site.
The MPCA Citizens' Board consists of the commissioner and eight members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. The MPCA reported one member must be knowledgeable in the field of agriculture, and one member must be a representative of organized labor. Meetings are conducted monthly.
MPCA Citizen's Board and committee meetings are in the lower level of the MPCA's offices located at 520 Lafayette Road N. in St. Paul. Regular board meetings are on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Most meetings begin at 9 a.m., but if the size of the agenda calls for it the meeting may begin at 8:30 a.m.
The next East Gull Lake Council meeting is set July 1.
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