East Gull Lake received permit approval Tuesday for the expansion of a wastewater treatment plant and extension of its city sewer.
The city's proposed $6 million sewer project has been a contentious subject with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizens' Board since July. East Gull Lake's plan was supported by the MPCA's Brainerd regional office. Opponents of the project attended the citizens' board hearings on each occasion objecting to the city's plan.
Tuesday after about 2 1/2 hours of discussion, the citizens' board voted 6-0 to reissue the permit. In a compromise to address public involvement in the topic, the board recommended the MPCA commissioner meet with the city and those opposed to the project. A time and date for that meeting has not been set.
"We were very pleased with how the hearing went and we think the motion to grant the permits reflects the fact the advisory board was satisfied all the environmental criteria were met and the system was properly engineered," said East Gull Lake Mayor Chris Robinson. "I think they were satisfied all the information the city provided was accurate and complete."
It was a major shift for the board, which as recently as October had individual members stating the city was providing false or misleading information regarding the project. Other board members disagreed. And the issue brought up discussions of how far reaching the citizens' board's powers extended as to whether a project was needed versus whether it met environmental standards.
Robinson said the next step for the city is to have engineers put finishing touches on the bid documents. An engineer's update is expected 7 p.m. Jan. 6 at East Gull Lake City Hall.
"We are pleased we received the permits and are anxious to move forward," Robinson said today.
Stephen Mikkelson, MPCA information officer with the Brainerd regional office, said today a couple of things happened at the board. The MPCA commissioner sat down with board members, re-evaluated and revisited the board's purpose and authority.
And last month the board heard a similar case from Cold Spring, which went through fairly smoothly and seemed to make the overall issue more clear to the board, Mikkelson said.
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