Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 20, 2001

Wright County Board haggles over HL water tower issue

By John Holler

While many people can get things done on a handshake agreement, governments typically require signed documentation before entering into a contract.

However, that isn't always the case, and became the source of argument at the Aug. 14 meeting of the Wright County Board.

The commissioners debated the status of a water tower constructed on county property at the county fairgrounds in Howard Lake.

The county contends the city unilaterally changed the specifications of the construction of the original contract and, when a signed contract was returned, it was different from the one the county sent - prompting at least one commissioner to consider taking the city to conciliation court.

"The bottom line is that the county and city came to an agreement, and the city changed the language and hasn't lived up to the original agreement," Board Chair Ken Jude said. "We spent thousands of dollars fighting other issues in court. I think this would be worth fighting."

Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson advised against attempting legal action, because he believes a lawsuit would be counterproductive. In conversations with city officials, he was told the city could have charged the county for several services provided to the county, but hasn't and indicated that might change if the county pursues legal action to resolve the matter.

"I don't see anything good coming out of it," Asleson said. "I'm against suing them because I don't believe we have a legal leg to stand on with this issue."

The board authorized Asleson to continue talks with the city and offer a compromise of not requiring fencing around the tower as originally stipulated, but still meet with the other requirements of the original contract.

While Asleson will keep the lines of communication open, he and the commissioners may be forced to concede that there isn't much they can do on the matter.

"I don't see much that we can do now," Commissioner Jack Russek said. "We let them build the water tower without a signed agreement, and now we're stuck with it."

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