OUR OPINION: Save now to fix East Grand Forks's sewage system later
Fix the sewage treatment system now. No, fix it later. The East Grand Forks City Council voted on the issue, and ultimately, the "Fix it later" group won. Both sides made reasonable arguments, so it's no surprise that the vote turned out to be close.
Fix the sewage treatment system now. No, fix it later.
The East Grand Forks City Council voted on the issue, and ultimately, the "Fix it later" group won.
Both sides made reasonable arguments, so it's no surprise that the vote turned out to be close. But here's a plan that might prompt all of the council members to vote "yes":
Start saving money now for the treatment system's eventual fix.
On that, most in East Grand Forks -- including the City Council -- should agree.
East Grand Forks' decades-old lagoon system is leaking, and the city's wrestling with what to do. One idea: Contract with Grand Forks for sewage treatment, then pipe the sewage under the Red River and into Grand Forks' treatment system.
The cost: About a $15 a month increase in household water rates.
This was the plan that the council approved 4-3, a majority but not a big enough one to override Mayor Lynn Stauss' veto.
"As he has consistently noted all along in the months' long discussion, Stauss said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hasn't forced his city to make changes, even though the agency has said it has reason to believe the city's lagoons are leaking," Herald staff writer Ryan Bakken wrote.
Plus, the $15-a-month cost for households was prohibitive, especially when in the absence of any pressure from the state agency.
"The economy is not our friend," Stauss said in the story. "Any increase in taxes will place a heavy burden on members of our community."
And there the matter will stand, until either the MPCA puts its foot down, the treatment system suffers a catastrophic failure or an election changes the makeup of city government.
But here's something the city should do in the meantime:
Raise water rates by a much more modest amount to start banking money for the inevitable fix.
Because sooner or later, East Grand Forks will need to fix its treatment system. Like everything else, such systems wear out; and given current system's age and the fact that it's already come to the MPCA's attention, East Grand Forks' lagoons seem somewhat more wornout than most.
If the city had started collecting $10 a month a decade ago, it wouldn't be facing this expensive dilemma today, as Council Member Mike Pokrzywinski said on the radio the other day. It already would have enough money to start either fixing and improving its own treatment system or run the cross-river-pipe and link up with the one in Grand Forks.
A $10-a-month increase likely is too rich even today, given the mayor's reluctance to OK the $15-a-month hike. But what about, say, $3 a month? That's not a lot of money. But it's enough to build up over time, and it would come in mighty handy when the inevitable "fix the system" day arrives.
Council member Marc DeMers "said he will suggest a water rate increase because 'we need to start getting used to the idea that sewage will cost us more, whether it's fixing our ponds or the interconnect.'" Bakken reported. Add "build up a bankroll" to that rationale, and you've got an idea the mayor and council should support.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald