By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor
BUFFALO, MN Wright County Board conducted a public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting to consider a petition by the city of Delano to outlet storm water from a proposed industrial park development into the County Ditch 34 drainage system.
Property owners who attended the hearing opposed the request to discharge water into the ditch, and the cost that they would incur for repairing the ditch, parts of which are in poor condition.
Ditch 34 was constructed in 1917, and provides an outlet for a watershed of approximately 1,500 acres.
According to a report prepared by Ron’s Appraisal Service of Redwood Falls at the county’s request, the ditch is functioning, but in need of repairs, and “will eventually need total replacement or abandonment.”
A report issued by the appraisal service states that currently about 25 percent (369 acres) of the acres in the watershed are benefitted by the ditch.
Benefit values range from $30 to $60 per acre.
The property proposed to be used for Delano’s industrial park represent about 30 percent ($5,560) of the total benefits.
The report acknowledges that the plan for the park includes retention basins that will control the discharge to a maximum rate that matches the current runoff conditions.
However, “there will be an increase in total volume of runoff from the park’s change in land use. This increased volume will cause the existing drain tile to have a discharge flow for a longer period of time after each storm event,” according to the report.
The cost to replace the existing tile in the main tile system is estimated at $325,000. Increasing the size of the tile to accommodate increased volume would cost an additional $25,000.
Since Delano would receive the primary benefit from improving the system, the city would be assessed the $25,000, plus its share of the $325,000, according to the report.
The cost to replace the complete drainage system, including the main tile and tile branches, is estimated at $550,000.
The report notes that the system is estimated to be depreciated to 80 percent of its life, which leaves the current value of the system at $110,000.
“Applying the average 3.5 percent benefit to the remaining system value indicates an outlet fee cost to the city of Delano of $3,850,” the report states.
During Tuesday’s hearing, several property owners spoke in opposition to the proposal to discharge water from the industrial park into the ditch.
One resident said he used to clean out the portion of the ditch on his property, but was told by Wright Soil and Water that he could not do so anymore.
He said he has a problem with Delano discharging water into the ditch before the ditch has been repaired.
Another resident said if Delano wants to develop the land, it should put in a storm sewer to the river, rather than discharging water into the ditch.
Frances Czanstkowski, who owns property along the ditch but was unable to attend the hearing, submitted a letter stating that she is opposed to allowing the industrial park to drain water into the ditch.
She noted that she is on a fixed income from Social Security, and the cost of additional assessments for improving the ditch would create “an extreme financial hardship” for her.
Czanstkowski wrote that the city of Delano and the developer of the industrial park should pay the costs for the improvements, and the costs should not be passed on to the property owners along the ditch, because the existing property owners will not gain much benefit from the project.
“The city of Delano will benefit from all the tax revenue that will be generated by the proposed industrial park, and the developer will benefit from the sale of the lots, in which, can pass on the expenses associated with the development to the potential new buyers of the lots in the industrial park,” Czanstkowski wrote.
Kerry Saxton, of Wright Soil and Water, reminded those in attendance that improvements were not being discussed at that time, and that the hearing was about the outlet fee for the city.
“I have a concern about development on 100-year-old drainage tiles,” Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said.
He reiterated that, according to Ron’s Appraisal Service, the ditch will eventually need total replacement or abandonment.
“Is this what we want industrial development in Wright County to be relying on?” Sawatzke asked.
Wright County Chief Deputy Attorney Brian Asleson said the city would be sharing in the costs of any improvements that are made.
Sawatzke asked what the board will do in the future if 20 property owners along the ditch are opposed to making improvements to Ditch 34, and one property owner (the city) is in favor.
Another property owner, Diane Barlau said the tile is still working. She said existing property owners had no say about doing the study on the ditch, and the city should pay all costs associated with conducting the study.
“The city has annexed the land, and it doesn’t want to pay for proper drainage, they want the farmers to pay. They want to push it off on the farmers,” Barlau said.
Saxton said the big issue with discharging water from the industrial park is time, not volume.
The flows will not necessarily be higher, but the water will run for a longer period of time.
“What the city is proposing, there will be less flow than there is now,” Saxton said.
Property owner Ken Barlau said his farm is lower than the industrial park, and the park will drain before his farm does.
He said the cost to improve the ditch will be more than his farm is worth.
Property owner John Rose said the ditch has worked in the past, but he expressed concern that, with more land being developed, sooner or later the tile won’t be sufficient.
He suggested the city should build its own drainage system.
After about 45 minutes, when all the property owners had been given the opportunity to comment, the board closed the public hearing.
The board laid over the subject until the Tuesday, May 17 board meeting for further discussion. It was noted that the ditch is in Commissioner Jack Russek’s district, and since he was not present during the meeting, the board wanted to give him the opportunity to participate in the discussion.