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City of Delano questions access fee from Wright County for Ditch 34

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

DELANO, MN – Though approval has been granted by Wright County for the City of Delano to access County Ditch 34 to make improvements to it, a sticking point with the city council is the fee the county is charging the city for that access.

“Overall, the message here is good news,” City Administrator Phil Kern said at Tuesday night’s council meeting, adding that the city has been working on this issue for five years.

The city is looking to make improvements to the ditch so it can be utilized for water drainage of a proposed industrial park.

In 2009, Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek and Kerry Saxton of the Wright County Soil and Water District identified these improvements as likely costing $8,000 to $10,000. The exact amount was not finalized as the county doesn’t have a final design for improvements.

In a study, Ron Ringquist of Ron’s Appraisal Service, identified a fee of $3,850, along with an increased percentage of future improvements. Ringquist was an expert hired by the county to assess the situation.

At the county board meeting May 31, the board accepted Ringquist’s findings relating to the increased responsibilities for future improvements, and directed an increase in the share of benefit for the industrial park properties by 3.5 percent.

Kern said a “very arbitrary” number of $20,000 was decided upon by the board for the access fee, instead of a number closer to the amount Ringquist suggested ($3,850).

“There was no justification or basis discussed for $20,000,” Kern said, adding that the number the county came up with is almost six times higher than the amount recommended by the expert it hired.

The council looked at several options, including paying the access fee and moving forward with the project, or challenging the access fee from the county.

Kern suggested a moderate approach in that the city could write a letter to the county asking for a better explanation of the fee.

“In effect, it’s a denial without denying,” Council Member Betsy Stolfa said. “They just threw a dart at a dart board and aimed high.”

City staff will draft a letter to the county seeking additional information how the county arrived at the $20,000 amount. The letter will be reviewed by the council prior to being sent.

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