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Wright County holds off on review of Ditch 34 for Delano
July 18, 2011

By Julie Krienke
Staff Writer

BUFFALO, MN – The Wright County Board laid over a request from the city of Delano to review several items concerning access to Ditch 34 at Tuesday’s meeting.

The county board decided to wait until next week’s board meeting to review the requests presented by Wright County Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala.

The city of Delano is pleased with the county’s issuance of the permit for access to Ditch 34, according to a letter from the city to Brian Asleson, chief deputy attorney of Wright County.

A check for $1,050 was included to cover the $1,000 appraisal and $50 in publication notices.

The letter also requested further review of several items contained in the county’s order regarding County Ditch 34.

The city is identifying two areas of inconsistency with discussion on this matter, according to the letter.

First, the city is committed to constucting storm water controls and utilizing vacant land to hold back water, despite the significant cost.

The city requested an agreement with the county that it will impose the same standards on other applicants requesting to discharge into Ditch 34.

Second, the city asked for an explanation and justification of the access fee in the letter.

“The $20,000 access fee amount appears to have no factual basis in the record,” the letter said. “The city would request a review of this amount and the factual basis for its establishment.”

“The city makes some good points in that the board did not show how they arrived at $20,000,” Asleson said.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said the city needs to remember that using the ditch is an alternate to building its own stormwater system.

“I think in the grand scheme of things, $20,000 is minimal,” Sawatzke said.

Commissioner Elmer Eichelberg said the board cannot deny access to the ditch, since the city owns the property along the ditch.

The board laid over discussion of County Ditch 34 until next week’s meeting in order to gather more information.

Adult diversion program discussed

Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly introduced a new adult diversion program to the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Courts, probation, legislature, law enforcement, and prosecutors all agree that we have a youth alcohol problem,” Kelly said. “The culture today for many is, ‘drink as much as you can, as fast as you can, and get as drunk as you can.’”

Currently, 18 to 20-year-olds who are caught consuming alcohol are required to pay a $185 fine to court administration.

“Since the statewide payables offense policy doesn’t require the individual to come to court, no one is taking the time to see what the situation is or if there is a chemical issue,” Kelly said.

For this reason, the county attorney’s office has decided to run a diversion program to provide assessment and education and to reduce the number of cases going to court.

Wright County’s diversion program has started, and programming will begin Monday, Aug. 1.

First-time offenders, 18 to 20 years old, who get caught consuming alcohol will participate in the diversion program, Kelly said.

The cost is $100, which includes the $50 diversion fee and the $50 class fee.

If the indivdiual fails diversion or they reoffend, they will be brought into court on the appropriate charge.

Only crimes having a $250 value or less will be eligible for diversion.

“I think it’s a good alternative,” Board Chair Jack Russek said. “It’s something you can’t just buy your way out of.”

All of Wright County will be covered by the new program, as Buffalo, Annandale, and Howard Lake law enforcement and prosecutors are on board.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• tabled discussion about hiring a highway maintenance person to fill the position vacated by Bruce Bersie until the first meeting in October, when the budget will be reviewed.

• approved an abatement that will correct a clerical error and qualify Mark Brandt of Rockford for the exclusion of market value for disabled veterans.

• approved the board’s attendance at an economic development meeting regarding the state shutdown.

• authorized closing the county license bureau early July 15 for a funeral service for the daughter of an employee.

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