Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 1, 2001

County board upset with HL water tower contract proposal

By John Holler

Contracts are negotiated by Wright County every day. Whether it's with an employee union or with cities and townships, the county looks to protect its own interests before it signs an agreement. However, agreeing to a deal is not always the last word.

The board found that out at its Dec. 19 meeting, as it learned that the City of Howard Lake sent the county a re-worded understanding concerning an agreement the city has with the county about placing a water tower on county land at the county fairgrounds.

Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson said he received a revised contract with no cover letter or explanation from the city that includes four significant changes: omitting language that would require the city to be responsible for fencing and safety measures, changing language to charge the county for water used at the fairgrounds, changing language to no longer require the city to obtain approval from the county for placement of communications antennae on the tower, and altering the language concerning shared revenue from renting space for such communications equipment on the tower itself.

While the staff has changed somewhat in the mayor's office and city council, the commissioners were stunned by the unannounced changes. Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said the county wouldn't have agreed to the contract under those proposed terms to begin with, and Commissioner Ken Jude added, "We already have a signed contract with them. I don't see why we need to accept any of these changes."

The board approved referring the matter to the ways and means committee and giving city officials an opportunity to explain their position and why the changes were made. While the board expressed no intention of approving the proposed changes, one commissioner added a threat he hopes will get city officials to have a change of heart.

"We'll have to let them know that we own that property where the water tower is at," Commissioner Jack Russek said. "If they don't want to keep the agreement we have, they can take down the tower and put in on their own property."

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