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East Gull Lake approves amendments to wastewater policy

Following two years of research by a wastewater subcommittee, the East Gull Lake City Council approved an amendment to its wastewater policy on a 3-1 vote earlier this month.

Following two years of research by a wastewater subcommittee, the East Gull Lake City Council approved an amendment to its wastewater policy on a 3-1 vote earlier this month.

The amendment focused on defining and calculating commercial Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC) charges, especially for Cragun's Resort and Madden's on Gull Lake Resort.

Rob Mason, city administrator/planning and zoning administrator, said when the former policy was developed for ERC charges in 1991, the policy did not account for many of the facilities, amenities and offerings of the two resorts today. These shortcomings were revealed during an audit of the properties in question two years ago.

Following the audit, a sub-committee formed with council members Jim Ruttger and Dennis Lang and Wastewater Superintendent Joel Jasmer, along with Jerry Stromberg. The committee researched the former ERC system and created recommendations it deemed more inclusive of all offerings, in keeping with the Metropolitan Council, which the committee believed was more fair and better defined.

The ERC policy amendment specifies that there is one ERC for every five beds in a staff dormitory while the old policy charged one ERC for every three employees. The former ordinance did not account for any fast food facilities, while the changes equate one ERC for 22 seats.

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The new ERC equations also account for maintenance buildings, massage rooms, manicure/pedicure stations, cocktail lounges, coffee shops, meeting rooms and banquet rooms.

Under the new system, both resorts are proposed to face decreased ERC counts. Madden's would see a decrease of 74.19 ERCs, from 323 to 248.81; and Cragun's would see a 43.29 decrease, from 293 to 249.71.

Even though the former policy did not account for things like public eateries, spas and dormitories, the ERC counts are less under the new policy, which does account for the various amenities found at the resorts.

In an interview, Jasmer said this was because ERC counts appear to have been arbitrarily assigned. The previous policy did not assign ERCs according to building capacity, occupancy or services. Jasmer said he does not even know how the previous policy determined ERC counts because there is no documentation explaining it.

Jasmer said the new policy is heavily based on the Metropolitan Council, which has researched commercial wastewater use for more than 40 years. Jasmer said he has clearly documented the new policy for future reviews.

The East Gull Lake City Council approved the amendment at the Aug. 5 regular meeting after a public hearing on the proposal.

Tom Malat of Squaw Point Road said the meeting was not publicized enough for a public response, and Mayor Dave Kavanaugh responded that the city followed legal requirements for publishing public meeting notifications. The city published notices in the Brainerd Dispatch and the East Gull Lake city website, as well as sent emails to those signed up for email notification. Kavanaugh stressed that the amendments to the ERC count policy did not come from a request by local resorts, but as a result of the audit done two years ago.

Malat asked what percentage of wastewater charges was paid for by the city and what percentage was paid for by the resorts. Kavanaugh said, following the audit, the resorts would have seen a decrease in ERC counts even without the amendment.

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John Reedy of Squaw Point suggested the city should switch to a metered system. City Engineer Jeff Ledin said it is difficult to use a metered system if there is no city water.

If resorts are given a lower ERC count, someone still needs to pay for wastewater treatment, which will not go down in cost due to lower ERC counts. Jasmer said the difference in ERC counts will be made up for through a flat rate increase to all East Gull Lake wastewater customers, including residents and resorts.

"Even though the ERC count went down, they're still paying for almost half of our sewer bill," Jasmer said.

Two years ago, in addition to ERC changes, the council discussed increasing quarterly rates for wastewater fees, staying in line with inflation. The decision was delayed until the completion of the ERC amendments. Once discussion of ERC charges is complete the city will continue discussion of an increase between $5 and $10 per month. The increase will likely be discussed by the end of the year for billing in the first quarter of 2015.

In other business, the council:

• Approved installation of appropriate signs on Squaw Point Road to reduce speeding.

• Approved a contract with Pillager Area Fire Protection Association for fire protection and rescue services for 2015-16 at a cost of $50,000 with a requirement of a one-year written cancellation notice by the city of East Gull Lake. Payments would be semi-annual at an amount of $12,500 June 1 and Sept. 1 each year.

Related Topics: EAST GULL LAKE
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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