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COUNTY BOARD: Need for water grows for Olsonville, Schmitz Road

Carlton County has an industrial park with no water, Olsonville residents and businesses need a more reliable water source, and residents along Schmitz Road are dealing with high levels of arsenic in their well water.

To resolve all of the above issues, local officials have been working on a plan to extend a new watermain from the city of Carlton along Highway 210 to serve Schmitz Road, Olsonville, the County Transportation Building and the County Industrial Park site near the Transportation Building. The project is led by Twin Lakes Township and the city of Carlton, and also includes a new water treatment plant in Carlton, a new supply well and city watermain improvements.

“The original proposal was just to deliver water to Olsonville residents and businesses, but four or five years ago, arsenic was found in the water in the Schmitz Road area, so we expanded the project,” said Tim Korby of Donohue Engineering, the firm hired to do the facility plan for the regional water project. “The legal limit for arsenic in your water is 10 parts — there’s actually been levels up around the 450 level, or 45 times the legal limits of arsenic. So it’s only become more imperative to get water supply to this area.”

Quantity also has been an issue, Korby said, noting that one of the hotels had approximately seven wells put in, trying to supply water to their hotel, and still doesn’t have adequate water.

Korby gave a short presentation during Tuesday’s Carlton County Board meeting, basically asking commissioners to support continued development of the plan and grant applications, and to decide what, if any, water availability they would like to see for the county’s industrial park.

Because of the significant need, Korby said he thinks the project will score well on grant applications to USDA Rural Development, which is the next step in making the project a reality.

He is “conservatively” planning for a 50 percent grant, but said the USDA could even choose to fund the project at 100 percent. On the other hand, the federal agency could also choose not to fund the project, which might stop the development before it even starts.

Estimated costs for the project vary, depending on how the county chooses to develop the land currently set aside for an industrial park. At 50,000 gallons of water for an industrial park, the total cost would be $12.6 million. If a USDA grant paid half of that, or $6.3 million, it would leave the county paying 55 percent of the costs for extending the watermain ($3,085,670), while Twin Lakes Township would pay just over $2.5 million and the city of Carlton would pay $687,487.

If the county wanted 75,000 gallons of water a day, the county’s portion of the costs would go up to $3.65 million. And if the county chose to make the land into a recreational area and only contract for water to the Transportation Building, the cost to the county would only be $1.15 million.

Local funding for the proposed project would be paid for through user fees, water availability charges and assessments to residents and possible industrial park tenants (if the county chooses to develop the park). Korby said they’ve estimated that, with a 50 percent grant, the cost to township residents would likely be about $45 a month for water.

He added, however, that if the county decides not to extend water to the proposed industrial park, however, it will increase costs to township residents and businesses and possibly make the project non-viable.

According to the report from Donohue, if the county requires a greater water demand in the future, the pipe may not be sized appropriately to supply it or the water treatment plant my need to be upsized. Such changes could result in significant future costs.

Carlton County Economic Development Director Connie Christenson said the first question she usually gets from prospective business/industrial park tenants is “Do you have water?”

“It’s a big decision,” she told the commissioners. “But we have a large investment in that property.”

County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert pointed out that at one time the county had also considered putting housing on the land set aside for the business park, and Commissioner Dick Brenner asked if a larger water main would allow for future expansion to Twin Lakes Township. Korby said yes, at the larger size.

“We’re not asking for a final decision on the industrial park or the watermain size today,” Korby said.

Carlton County Commissioners agreed informally Tuesday that they would like to see work on the water treatment and distribution project continue.

In other matters Tuesday, commissioners took the following actions, among others:

  • Honored Milt Hagen and Jody Meyer for 25 years of employment with the county;

  • Approved one new staff member to help process Income Maintenance applications (MnSure) along with another staff member to help with Long Term Care, a position that will be paid for by Health Partners.

  • Approved an increase of a $1.50 to disposal fees for both dirty and recycled mattresses;

  • Approved a second round of interviews for the vacant County Assessor position.