Guest Commentary…….Big Lake Sewer project is good news!
By John Fredrickson
Big Lake area residents, picture a time in the not-too-distant future where your lake is no longer at risk for contamination and your property value is increased! Also picture an autumn season without raking your leaves over your drain field. How about no worries about pumping or thawing your septic system? Now that a sewer system around Big Lake is much closer to reality, that is in our future.
As I said in my last note to residents, we have been awarded Minnesota Bonding Monies totaling $4,500,000. This is a grant that immediately reduces the cost to each and every one adjacent homeowner by a large amount.
As with everything, there is a little more to it. In order to obtain these funds, we must obtain matching amounts from non-state sources. These funds could come from bank loans, low interest federal loans or grants. The Board of Managers has identified that federal grants and low-interest loans have the highest probability of providing the lowest total cost to residents. There is a very good chance that the district will obtain this grant/loan package if we simply apply. The most important step left to get our application considered is to provide the USDA with an income survey for the residents of the district. This data must be specifically for our district so it can be used by the USDA to determine the amount we can receive in grants versus loans. Because this “non-state” funding is critical to keeping our out-of-pocket costs low, the district plans to continue to work with residents until we get the minimum statistical responses needed to qualify. As of this writing, we are very close to that threshold and don’t plan to stop our efforts until we meet the minimum.
You may ask, what if I elect to not participate? Non-participation will not cause the district to “go away” or the sewer project to stop. It will only serve to drive your out-of-pocket cost up because we will have to continue to pay our independent survey company to keep working until we get the needed number of responses. If at some point we fall short, the board will simply have to continue to look for alternative matching funds (bank loans for instance) which have almost no chance of providing the lowest cost to each owner.
You may also wonder, what if I just don’t connect? If you refuse to connect, you will eventually end up with the cost and none of the good things I mention at the top of this letter. As a state sanitary district, we are empowered to bill you anyway for the minimum monthly cost per household. If you don’t pay, the amounts would then be added to your taxes. If you don’t connect when the sewer system is built, you will be 100 percent responsible for the cost to connect, including all costs to install components that would have been included in the sewer project funding. While this seems quite harsh, it is the guideline by which all sanitary districts in Minnesota operate.
In closing, I hope Big Lake residents can see what a great spot we are in right now. After years of hard work, we are now nearing the point where we will be able to protect the future of our lake at the lowest possible cost to each and every one of us. If we miss this chance, we will only end up with more risk to the health of our lake and residents, and higher costs to build the system. I urge you to fill out your surveys and send them in. If you are contacted by MAP (our survey taker), please provide them with the information in the survey.
John Fredrickson is chairman of the Big Lake Area Sanitary District. Board of Managers includes Vice Chairman John Peterson, Treasurer Dave Nelson, Rocky Rennquist and Wayne Dupuis.