In a Nov. 14 Brainerd Daily Dispatch article covering the sewer controversy in East Gull Lake, Mayor Chris Robinson is quoted as saying a "vocal minority" has opposed the treatment system. I am one of the "vocal minority" who has urged affected lakeshore property owners in the edited letter that follows to not sign easement requests and the reasons therefore. It is our opinion the financial consequences of proceeding with the "sewer project" will have an unwarranted financial impact on all citizens of East Gull Lake.
As of Nov. 15, 2002, 433 requests for easement signatures have been mailed to 288 lakeshore property owners, who would be hooked up to an expanded East Gull Lake sewer system. One hundred twelve easement requests have been signed and returned to city hall. The 321 easements that have not been signed and returned (74 percent) by over 200 property owners should not be considered a vocal minority.
If the council elects to proceed with the non-government mandated "sewer project," condemnations will be required. Assuming Mayor Robinson's recently estimated cost of "several thousand" dollars/condemnation equates to $2,500/condemnation, a tab exceeding $800,000 can be anticipated for condemnation proceedings. This cost cannot be incorporated into funds borrowed from the state or paid for by affected homeowners. It can be funded only by general funds ie., by all property owners within East Gull Lake.
If the city elects to proceed with the "sewer project" the following numbers, obtained from East Gull Lake, are of significant interest. (By definition an ERC (Equivalent Residential Connection) represents a dwelling unit, a guest quarter represents 1/2 an ERC and a vacant lot 1/4 an ERC).
-- Using most recent estimated project costs of $5,999,270, each ERC would be assessed $20,831.
-- If the city caps assessments at $13,100 per ERC, as proposed by the mayor, a shortfall of $2,305,070 would be created.
-- With an anticipated shortfall of $2,305,270 the city would (without a city-wide vote) be allowed to borrow the $5,999,270 from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (MPCA) with an explanation to the MPCA, the shortfall created by the $12,100 cap would be funded by increased taxes for all citizens of East Gull Lake, including those living quite distant from any lakeshore. It must be emphasized, that while MPCA requires "future growth" numbers for design of a sewer system, growth assumptions cannot be used in calculating repayment schedules to the MPCA.
-- The average yearly taxpayers principal repayment (without interest) for the shortfall would be $115,254 for 20 years, a figure representing 35 percent of the projected 2003 East Gull Lake budget of $329,844.
East Gull Lake, if it elects to proceed with the "sewer project," would have two choices for funding. Pass the entire costs to the affected 288 lakeshore property owners of $20,831 per ERC, which the mayor has repeatedly stated he will not do, or ask non-lakeshore property owners to significantly subsidize this project through increased taxes.
On many occasions, the city council and their legal counsel have been asked to publicly outline their intentions as to who will be responsible for the loan repayment. The repeated response has been that all questions should have been answered at the public hearing of October 13, 2001, and wastewater and city council meetings since that time.
The city council has been asked on many occasions if it would not be prudent to inform those being asked to sign "blank check" easement documents of the financial obligation attendant with signing, that could range anywhere from $13,100 to $20,831. The city has repeatedly answered they have no reason or obligation to do so.
The city has been repeatedly asked, in as much as the 110 property owners in Sylvan Shores have been used for calculating costs per ERC, would it not be wise to be in communication with this sizable group of homeowners. The city has repeatedly stated it has no obligation to do so.
In light of the above-mentioned actions, or inactions, on the part of the mayor and council of East Gull Lake, you are urged to be prudent and not sign the requested easement documents. Without any governmental mandate to proceed, with the paucity of communications to affected lakeshore property owners, with essentially no communication to those taxpayers far from a lakeshore who will be asked to significantly subsidize the project, with three out of four lakeshore property owners unwilling to sign "blank check" easement requests and with the Mayor's significant estimated costs of condemnation, there is no demonstrable justification to proceed with any additional planning or expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
You are urged to convey to the mayor and council that with anticipated total costs, including condemnation, approaching or exceeding $7,000,000, this is much too big a project for a city the size of East Gull Lake. The financial obligation of taxpayers for a non-mandated project of this size is excessive and unwarranted.
You are urged to applaud the mayor and council for obtaining an engineering report that can be archived and revisited if conditions change for the favorable in the future. You are urged to communicate to the mayor and council that at this point in time, to pour more good money after bad, for many years to come into this project, will almost certainly lead to such ill feelings and animosity among the good citizens of East Gull Lake, this community very likely could become a dysfunctional societal unit, a result no one should desire for a legacy.
(Simons is an East Gull property owner.)
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