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County commissioners and sewer commission meet for informational dialogue

January 12, 2005

"This is the only economic growth area in Murray County," Salmon told those present. "If we don't have a sewer system, those people won't come. We will be stifling the potential economic growth."
By JoAnn Biren

What was called a retreat for the Murray County Commissioners turned into an informational hour and one-half as commissioners listened to Shetek Area Water and Sewer Commission members describe in detail how the project for centralized sewer came to be.

The meeting took place at Shetek Ministries in the Red Cloud cabin. All county commissioners were present as well as all members of SAWS, except for Harry Faragalie. Chris Hansen, Water Resource Administrator and Karen Onken, Zoning Administrator were also present along with Gary Spaeth, Murray County auditor/treasurer.

Resource Administrator and Karen Onken, Zoning Administrator were also present along with Gary Spaeth, Murray County auditor/treasurer.

Dean Salmon, chair of SAWS began the information hour by stating he wanted to share some things that had been running through his mind of late concerning the sewer project. "We've come to the edge a couple of times and now to shut the door without finding out what the total cost will be is a mistake," he said.

Salmon then handed out an informational sheet detailing what would be lost for the County, over and above, the funding for the centralized sewer system if the plan does not go ahead.

According to Lisa McCormick, who spoke to the county commissioners last week, MPCA could condemn property if a non-compliant system was a danger to environment or humans. Also, the County will have to seriously look at what other funding could be cut. The total, over $132,000 in grants and over $700,000 in loans may be withheld because, again according to McCormick, the county has been given one extension after the other without seeing any forward moving on solving the sewage problem around the lakes. She also said at the meeting on January 4, that the county may be forced to condemn properties.

McCormick was asked, via e-mail by this paper, whether she had "overstepped her bounds," as was suggested at the Saturday meeting. In response, her direct supervisor, Gene Soderbeck e-mailed this paper and stated, "...it appears that some would like to discredit the message by shooting the messenger," Soderbeck said.

"Lisa has been representing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on this project and I'm not aware of any comment or statement she's made which is contrary to that of the Agency."

Discussion continued at the morning meeting with the two governing bodies, with information forthcoming from members of SAWS to questions from various commissioners.

"You have to be blind to not see what is happening here," SAWS commission member Larry Mechtenberg told the group. "We are the third largest community in southwest Minnesota in the summer. You can look it up. During Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, there are five to six thousand people out here. It's important that in 30 years people don't look back at this group and say, 'What were they thinking.' We must go ahead with the centralized sewer."

"This is the only economic growth area in Murray County," Salmon told those present. "If we don't have a sewer system, those people won't come. We will be stifling the potential economic growth."

Nancy Snedker, another commission member of SAWS stated, "This isn't something that was decided in a year," she said of the centralized sewer project. "It's important for you new commissioners to go in and look at what has been done, what has been discussed in the past 10 years. We keep hearing, 'Look at other options'. They have!"

In a discussion with Soderbeck on Monday afternoon, January 10, he stated, in part, "Our agency will help the county make a tough decision, but a lot of the responsibility will fall on the county commissioners. This agency is for local government making good decisions."

He further stated that if the commissioners take a look at all the data that has been compiled to date, and a look at the consequences to the landowners, they can only come up with a decision that is based on good government. "Quite frankly, what can property owners do? Can they upgrade? Can they build?" he questioned. "This is not MPCA's, this is a county project."


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