Herald Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 22, 2002

Winsted man claims the city owes him $15,000 in damages from plugged ditch

By Julie Yurek

An issue once thought to have been dropped, came up again at the Winsted City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The South Lake ditch is claimed to be blocked over the years, causing damage to Chuck Gutzmann's property, according to Gutzmann's attorney.

City Attorney Fran Eggert received a letter from attorney Kerry Olson of Galvin, Olson, Savre, and Winters in Glencoe in regards to the complaint.

"This issue was brought to the attention of the former council back around 2000," Eggert said.

"At that time, the council offered Gutzmann a one-time payment, and to clean the ditch. He counter offered a higher number, plus a yearly payment," Eggert said. "It never got resolved."

The offer on the table in the past was the council would pay $4,000 for the easement between Gutzmann's property and the ditch, Eggert said.

Gutzmann asked for $15,000 for past claimed damages, plus $1,000 per year from now on, Eggert said.

"I don't think that agreement would stand since we now have a new council," Eggert said.

"At one point, the old council also offered to buy an acre or so of Gutzmann's land between the ditch and his property," Eggert said. "He didn't want to do that, which isn't unusual, because farmers don't want to break up their land."

"According to Olson's letter, Gutzmann is claiming the ditch is plugged as a result of the water sewer treatment plant," Eggert stated.

The treated waste water flows into South Lake, and from there flows through South Lake ditch to another ditch northeast, which runs away from the lake, Eggert said.

"We have a permit from the state of Minnesota to utilize South Lake," Mayor Don Guggemos said.

"When the sewer plant was improved in 1986, the city offered to put a concrete pipe in that ditch, so then the farmers could put in a few catch basins and farm right over it," Guggemos said.

"One question is did he lose property? If so, how much and what is it worth?" Eggert said.

"Gutzmann says he's lost property, the city says that he didn't," Eggert said.

"Who's the determining factor?" council member Bonnie Quast asked.

"Somebody is going to have to show me why the city has to pay someone for that water to go into that ditch," Guggemos said.

"He should have come to the council years ago," Guggemos said. "If the ditch needs to be cleaned and it's 99 percent the city's fault, then the city will pay 99 percent of the costs."

"I don't think the city is in the position to write a check just because somebody says they want the money, " Guggemos said.

"If the ditch isn't draining the lake, the water level in the lake would also rise, but that must not be the case because we haven't heard any complaints from people around the lake," Guggemos said.

"It would be nice if Mr. Gutzmann and his attorney came to a council meeting to talk to the new council. If he's willing to work with the city, he could bring up something that might be acceptable, " Quast said. "How else is the city going to solve this?"

In the most recent letter Eggert received, Olson stated that Gutzmann does not want to go to any more council meetings because "he doesn't feel they are productive," Eggert said.

Eggert will get in touch with Olson to determine if the $15,000 payment is what still stands and Gutzmann's rationale as to why he feels the city is responsible for any possible damages to his property.

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