By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor
BUFFALO, MN A delegation from the city of Delano including City Administrator Phil Kern and Mayor Dale Graunke, appeared before the Wright County Board Tuesday to discuss a proposed industrial park in the city.
Standing in the way of the development is the poor condition of County Ditch 34, into which runoff from the property flows.
Board Chair Jack Russek summarized the history of discussions between the county and the city regarding the ditch.
A public hearing was conducted in 2006, and additional meetings have taken place since then.
He said nothing can be done at this time, and the city will have to wait until spring so that the condition of the ditch can be assessed.
Kern said the city has two main goals: to create jobs and to increase its tax base.
He said the city filed an application to discharge storm water into the ditch in 2006, and is concerned that the process has taken more than four years.
“We would like to move the discussion along,” Kern said. “The city feels they’re stuck in ‘Groundhog Day’ with the same ‘wait until spring’ answer,” Kern said, referring to the 1993 movie in which the main character relived the same day over and over.
Kern said the city believes that repairing the ditch and issuing a permit to allow the city to access the ditch are two separate issues.
“We are looking for the ability to move forward with our project, not necessarily be tied to fixing the entire ditch,” Kern said.
He explained that the city does not feel it should have to pay to fix the entire ditch, but is willing to escrow money to pay for its fair share of needed repairs.
Kerry Saxton of Wright Soil and Water Conservation District agreed that the city should not have to pay for all of the repairs, and added there is “fairly extensive work that is going to have to be done” to repair the ditch.
Russek said most of the 21 property owners on the ditch opposed repairing the ditch because it is currently working well enough to serve their needs.
“I told them you cannot deny them (the city, from discharging into the ditch) because that parcel has always been part of the ditch,” Russek said.
Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said the county cannot force the benefitting property owners to repair the ditch.
Kern pointed out that the city is proposing, with the industrial park, to restore the parcel to pre-settlement storm water runoff rates, which he said would result in a substantial reduction in the rate of runoff from what it is today.
“We are trying to go above and beyond our 1/21 share in the ditch,” Kern said. “We are not coming in trying to shed responsibility.”
He said the city is just trying to get loose ends tied up so it can begin marketing property in the industrial park.
The board approved creating a committee that will consist of representatives from the county and the city to discuss the issue.
Commissioner Elmer Eichelberg recommended that the committee meet soon to discuss the city’s concerns, rather than waiting until the snow melts in the spring.