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Mark Olstad: For EGF, interconnect saves millions over short and long terms

EAST GRAND FORKS -- East Grand Forks has had an ongoing discussion about replacement of the wastewater lagoon system. The main reason we need to replace the current system is capacity. The capacity is inadequate for growth.

EAST GRAND FORKS -- East Grand Forks has had an ongoing discussion about replacement of the wastewater lagoon system. The main reason we need to replace the current system is capacity. The capacity is inadequate for growth.

The current system is at 89 percent capacity. There will be consequences if our community continues to grow with this current system.

Once we reach 95 percent capacity, our city's residential, commercial and industrial development will be halted by the state of Minnesota. This means no new building within our city limits. This is something we cannot allow.

There are two options in front of the City Council, with a vote planned for Tuesday.

The first option is to completely replace the existing lagoon system with a brand-new lagoon system, which would include a tertiary treatment system. Tertiary treatment is required to help reduce the amount of chemicals that we discharge into the Red River.

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This option gives us local control but leaves us open to regulation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It also hinders development on the North End of town. It leaves us open to future capacity problems and slower response to a new large industrial user.

The second option is to build an interconnect with Grand Forks. This option requires some construction, but not to the scale of a new lagoon. It lets us have the lowest residential sewer rates, eliminates MPCA/EPA regulatory concerns, eliminates future capacity concerns, frees up the North End for development and allows for a quicker response to a large industrial user.

This option has a few concerns: no local control, no representation on the Grand Forks Council and the fact that East Grand Forks would need a "bullet proof" agreement with Grand Forks on the rates that would be charged to our residents.

Cost is another important factor to consider. The cost to construct the lagoon with the tertiary system is $22.8 million. The cost to construct the interconnect is $6.9 million.

Present Value Analysis was performed on both options at 20 years and 30 years into the future at 3 percent. These time periods were used due to the expected life span of the project, which includes operating costs.

Twenty- and 30-year numbers for the lagoon with tertiary treatment are $ 25.7 million and $27.1 million, respectively. Twenty- and 30-year numbers for the Interconnect are $12.7 million and $16.3 million, respectively.

I believe it is important to understand what is at stake when East Grand Forks makes a decision on the wastewater issue.

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As East Grand Forks residents can see from the numbers, there is quite a difference.

We in East Grand Forks have many other imminent projects which will require significant public dollars, including street repairs/replacement, community pool renovation and Civic Center parking lot replacement, to name a few. We should take an honest look at how we will spend taxpayer money now and into the future.

I believe that the choice is clear: We should prepare for the future growth of East Grand Forks AND be fiscally responsible with public funds. The interconnect with Grand Forks is the only option that supports both.

Olstad represents Ward 5 on the East Grand Forks City Council.

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