Crosslake's sanitary sewer extension project to begin May 16
Council ditches assessments, raises connection fees
CROSSLAKE — Residents and businesses will pay to connect to the city's sanitary sewer extension along County State Aid Highway 66, but they won’t be assessed for the project that’s scheduled to begin Monday, May 16.
Following is information from two city council meetings held in the past week, as well as project details and road detours.
May 9 public hearing
The Crosslake City Council held a public hearing Monday, May 9 - previously scheduled as a final assessment hearing - to allow questions about the project that’s been in the works since 2018.
The council wrestled with the city’s assessment policy until a workshop held Wednesday, May 4, where they voted 3-2 - with council members Marcia Seibert-Volz and Aaron Herzog opposed - not to assess benefiting properties.
Seibert-Volz has argued the city should follow its sewer ordinance, which she said specifically lists user categories.
The city adopted its assessment policy in July 2018. Mayor Dave Nevin has since said he doesn't agree with the policy.
At Monday’s public hearing, City Engineer Phil Martin, with Bolton & Menk engineering firm, summarized the project that will be done in two phases from the former city hall/current fire hall to just north of CSAH 16 at Moonlite Square.
“Water quality protection is the main focus of this,” Martin said, noting the project originated when Moonlite Bay Restaurant and Bar had septic system issues and to address stormwater discharge into Cross Lake.
Martin outlined the $2,058,859 estimated project cost:
- City portion (sanitary sewer, street and stormwater improvements), $1,619,410.
- Crow Wing County portion (street and stormwater improvements), $439,449.
The estimated project stormwater quality cost is $478,321, with the city/county portion at $163,321 and a Clean Water Fund grant of $315,000.
Martin outlined single-family home and nonresidential property cost scenarios:
Single family home
- Connection required at 10 year septic age.
- City connection cost is $5,500 (no longer $4,000) to reflect inflation from the first phase of this project, which occurred in 2006. The connect fee pays for the right to have waste treated at the wastewater treatment facility, or to pay for treatment space within the facility.
- Private property pipe cost is site specific.
- Sewer user charge is $55 per month, which is the base cost charged regardless of occupancy, meaning seasonal residents still must pay that each month.
- Connection required at 10 year septic age.
- City connection cost is $9,200 per equivalent residential unit (no longer $6,500 per ERC). ERCs are determined based on city code; the fee and amount is determined at the time of connection.
- Property pipe cost is site specific.
- Sewer user charge is $55 per 8,000 gallons with the base cost paid regardless of occupancy.
The city is still working to get six of 13 temporary construction easements.
Martin said the next step was public input. About a dozen people asked various questions at the public hearing, including whether the commercial connection fee was negotiable and whether directional boring could be used.
Nevin said there is no leeway in connection fees. That’s how the city did it 20 years during that first improvement, he said.
A resident warned those who choose to do directional boring that the choice could be expensive.
Martin said the city sent letters telling those along the project improvement route to contact city staff to coordinate where they want to bring in sanitary sewer service to their properties.
Addressing those who oppose the timing of the project during Crosslake’s busy summer season for retailers and others, Martin said: “The reality is that Minnesota doesn't give you a big construction season to get this work done.”
He said the contractor - Casper Construction, Inc. of Grand Rapids - has 65 working days, which are Mondays-Fridays, to complete the project. The timing is a necessary evil in Minnesota on a road that doesn’t have much leeway for detours, Martin said.
Seibert-Volz said if the city can’t get away from past practice and will continue not to assess property owners, she wonders if connection fees should be charged as they were during the first phase of the sanitary sewer extension on CSAH 66.
Martin said the sewer connection fee is tied to treatment plant capacity. If the city charges fewer connection fees, the funds would have to be made up through the city tax levy.
Herzog said the council should study this and get estimated costs rather than make a random decision.
Council member Dave Schrupp maintained that everyone in Crosslake has been and will continue to pay for operation of the sewer plant whether they are on the system or not.
May 4 workshop
Schrupp kicked off the May 4 workshop held to discuss assessments and connection fees by reading a letter that outlined his reasons not to assess residents and businesses for the $2.5 million project.
The assessment policy sounded great three to four years ago, but was not well received by city residents and businesses.
Those reasons included:
- No one was assessed for the original sewer collection system installation.
- No residents or commercial entities on the original system were assessed.
- Assessment amounts for businesses appear to be unreasonable following city policy.
- Businesses asked for lower assessments, but that is impossible to do because of city policy.
“The assessment policy sounded great three to four years ago, but was not well received by city residents and businesses,” Schrupp wrote. “In the past we have not assessed road improvements because we have the ability to pay for bonds with general levy dollars. Not an issue so far.”
In response to an emailed question after the meeting, City Administrator Mike Lyonais said in an email that the project would be paid for in the following way, using rounded numbers:
- $500,000 cash up front from the city that would be reimbursed by Crow Wing County in 2024.
- $315,000 from a Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District grant.
- $258,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
- $1.5 million in new general obligation improvement bonds, which includes the issuance costs.
The council also voted 4-1, with Seibert-Volz opposed, to raise the residential sewer system connection fee to $5,500 and to change the commercial connection fee to $9,200.
What you need to know
The County State Aid Highway 66 sanitary sewer extension project will run from just south of Log Landing Road to just north of CSAH 16.
The project includes:
- Extending the city’s sanitary sewer system.
- Replacing the storm sewer system.
- Improving stormwater quality.
- Reconstructing CSAH 66.
- Reconstructing the paved trail to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The project will be completed in two phases. During each phase, CSAH 66 will be closed to through traffic and detour routes will be in effect.
Property owners and customers of businesses within the project limits will be able to drive into the project area but should expect delays.
Phase 1 will start Monday, May 16. Workers will start by installing sewer main at the south end of this phase and will work their way north.
A list of local companies that can help property owners with installation of their private sanitary sewer service is available on the city website at www.cityofcrosslake.org .
Coordination for mail delivery and garbage collection will be provided on the city website.
For more information, call project engineer Andrew Beadell at 218-244-5928.
Other contacts are listed on the city website.
Regular project updates will be posted on the city website.
Starting Monday, May 16, CSAH 66 in Crosslake will be closed between Daggett Bay Road and Daggett Pine Road for road construction.
This section of CSAH 66 will be closed to through traffic until approximately July 1 for Phase 1 of the construction project.
Phase 2 from Daggett Pine Road to CSAH 16 will take place from approximately July 1 to Sept. 1. Local traffic will be detoured around the construction area.
For more information, contact Bolton & Menk, Inc. Project Engineer Andrew Beadell at 218-244-5928 or Casper Construction Inc. Project Manager Tom Alverson at 218-398-0706.
View Crosslake City Council meetings on the city's YouTube channel.
Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.