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East Gull Lake continues equivalent residential connection discussion

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The city of East Gull Lake hosted a retreat Feb. 19 to discuss updates to the Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC) policy formed for the city in 1991.

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Discussion centered around updating the way the policy calculates ERC numbers for resorts within East Gull Lake. The 23-year-old policy that currently dictates the ERC counts is outdated. This is not the first discussion of the ERC update, though there were no decisions made at the retreat.

“In wastewater for the last couple of years we have worked on this. But we basically just got to doing the subcommittee forum for wastewater. We just really talked about it one time at a recent retreat with the city. There’s still going to be more discussion,” East Gull Lake Mayor Dave Kavanaugh said.

A summary of the retreat minutes said Wastewater Superintendent Joel Jasmer has been working on ERC counts for approximately two years. In that time, Jasmer has attempted to determine usage for every building in the resorts.

ERC for resorts differs from residential properties.

A residential home or anything with a parcel identification number (PID) is charged one ERC. By comparison, Madden’s Resort is charged 323 ERCs and Cragun’s is charged 293 ERCs. The council is discussing how those numbers are calculated.

A resort’s ERC is determined by its amenities. Some proposed changes are easy to understand. Dormitories are currently charged one ERC per three employees. This is proposed to change to one ERC per five employees, noting they will not be used during winter months.

Some proposed changes are due to amenities that did not exist in 1991 or were not addressed then. Among these are banquet rooms, meeting rooms, a manicure/pedicure station and massage rooms.

One complex change could be made to the restauraunts and cafeteria or dining areas. The current policy charges one ERC per 75 meals served. The proposed change would have each ERC charged according to a complicated equation involving percentages of the total square feet of a dining area. Jasmer said 80 percent of this area would be considered a banquet area and 20 percent would be considered a restaurant in order to accurately reflect usage. This change does not apply to restaurants that advertise as restaurants. Discussion was very focused on these areas as conference facilities.

The committee in charge of the proposed changes to the ERCs received more questions and recommendations at the retreat. Council member Jim Ruttger suggested it would make more sense to define the dining and cafeteria areas according to seat total instead of using a multiplier.

Changes in ERC calculations could result in resorts being charged for more ERCs or less ERCs. It is expected that reccomendations from the committee would result in lower ERC numbers. Kavanaugh has received calls from people who have assumed this would result in extreme increases in sewer costs for residents to make up for the difference.

“I had two people call me who thought the rates were going to double. That’s certainly not the case,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said that sewer rates will increase regardless of changes to the ERC. A rate increase was requested by the wastewater committee two years ago, but was delayed until the completion of the ERC policy changes. Changes to ERC policies will affect how much the rate is increased. Fewer ERCs does mean that the rate for each ERC will go up, but not exclusively for residents. All ERCs, including those charged to resorts, will increase in cost.

“There’s going to be a rate increase. We just don’t know how much. We’re looking at anywhere from $4 to potentially $10 a quarter per ERC,” Kavanaugh said.

Seasonal residents were also discussed at the retreat. Kavanaugh said seasonal residency doesn’t change the operating cost of the system, and the charge for the wastewater system is based on operating costs.

No decisions have been finalized. The discussion is expected to continue into the summer. If there is an amendment Kavanaugh said it would happen in April or May. Public hearings would be required before then, and the city is required to publish notice of those public hearings in advance.

“If we decide to move forward with an ordinance change we have to obviously notice that and have public hearings on it. That’s going to probably take place during the summer. We wanted to really have it during the summer. We wanted to have the summer residents here. If they wanted to weigh in on it, they’ll be here,” Kavanaugh said.

Ruttger noted that no resort owners were on the committee. Kavanaugh said that Kavanaugh’s Resort is not a traditional resort and is considered a Planned Unit Development. Each parcel has a PID meaning that each is charged for one ERC each. Because Kavanaugh’s Resort is a PUD, it was decided Kavanaugh’s involvement in the discussion is not considered a conflict of interest. All council members were present for the retreat.

Travis Grimler can be reached at travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.

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