City Engineer Ryan Goodman is done talking. Now he’s “barking.”

At last week’s Scandia City Council meeting, Goodman urged the council, in no uncertain terms, to formulate a plan to address the Anderson-Erickson sewer system, which serves homes on the east side of Big Marine Lake.

The system is currently operating at its permitted and designed capacity. Rainfall events, at times, have caused the system to exceed capacity.

“According to design flows, (environmental) permit rules and city rules, we are not allowed to add any new connections,” Goodman said.

Because of this the city recently had to tell one applicant for a home expansion to revise their site plans to accommodate an on-site septic system instead of connecting to the system.

Goodman said the addition of new homes, the expansion of seasonal cabins into year-round homes, and the infiltration and inflow of stormwater all contribute to the system’s capacity. 

“It’s just a mix of everything,” Goodman said.

Goodman said addressing infiltration and inflow would help, but an expansion of the system is urgently needed. Continuing to operate the system at or above capacity could put private water wells and water quality in the lake at risk of environmental, should a failure occur. 

“We’re at a decision point,” City Administrator Ken Cammilleri said. 

Costs of expanding the system could be $200,000 or more, according to a 2017 estimate.

City officials have been preparing financially for roughly $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades to its three sewer systems within the next several years.

The nearby Bliss sewer system, on the west side of Big Marine, is under a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency order to begin treating nitrates by 2025, though a promising mitigation plan currently being explored might offer some relief.  

The city’s three sewer systems are entirely funded through user fees, which the council has been inching upward over the last few years to address the projected costs. 

Financial plan proposal

The council heard a proposal from Ehlers & Associates Financial Planning to create a long-term financial management plan for the city.

The management plan would assist the city in projecting future costs for road projects, capital improvements and equipment needs, estimating local tax levies, and developing budgets.

Per the proposal, the city would pay up to $15,000 for the service, at a rate of $250 per hour.

“It’s not a substitute for your budget process, but it is another tool in your toolbox,” Jason Aarsvold, of Ehlers & Associates, told the council.

Cammilleri—who worked with Ehlers on a similar plan while he was employed in Pine City, Minn.—spoke in favor of the proposal as did Fire Chief Mike Hinz and City Treasurer Colleen Firkus.

“It’s clear to me that we need something like this to address these needs,” Cammilleri said. “A plan like this is going to be extremely helpful to us.”

The council seemed inclined to agree to the proposal, but asked to review a sample of a similar, before accepting the proposal.

“I’d like a better sense of what the end product will be,” Mayor Christine Maefsky said.

Layton Avenue stormwater

After a lengthy discussion with residents of the Bliss neighborhood, the council instructed city staff to develop plans and explore a cost-sharing agreement with the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District on a temporary fix to flood control in the neighborhood.

The council also agreed to hold a formal public hearing with neighborhood residents on the issue.

Previously discussed on Aug. 5, the project would add about 100 feet of curb along the east side of Layton Avenue and is estimated to cost around $9,265.

The project would attempt to address run-off at homes in the immediate area after the city allowed one particular home to be regraded beyond what had been approved.

City staff, though, warned that the fix would be temporary and somewhat limited, because flooding issues are prevalent throughout the entire neighborhood and a much larger stormwater control project is necessary.

Other business:

• The council designated council members Chris Ness and Steve Kronmiller to serve as the council’s labor negotiation team. The city is due to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with its unionized public works employees.

• The council reviewed a proposed public survey of residents related to the upcoming zoning and development code update. The city has engaged Swanson Haskamp Consulting to assist with the code update.  

• The council appointed Redeemed Farm owner Julie Gacek and resident Lisa Schlingerman to serve on the city’s Tourism Committee.

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

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