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Lanesboro City Council Report: Water issues dominate council meeting

Fri, Sep 7th, 2007
Posted in Government

Water was the theme of the evening as several Lanesboro residents turned out for the regular city council meeting on Tuesday, September 4. The discussion was regarding some serious, ongoing water run-off problems in town. Kelly Jean Ohl had written a letter to the mayor and the council on behalf of many concerned citizens, and she was present to read the letter, as well as show photographs of water damage to her house and property.

Ohl approached the council in February of 2005 when snow thaw was followed by heavy rains, and her basement was flooded. Her home is located at the bottom of a hill, and she believes that the development on the property located above hers has disrupted and altered the natural flow of water, and now whenever it rains, the water runs down her property and to her house.

Ohl stated she has hired an engineer, who recommended building a wall to redirect the water. The wall was three feet wide by three feet high, and kept Ohl's property free of water until August 18, when there was a very heavy rainfall. At that time the wall broke. Ohl contacted the engineer again, who recommended a bigger wall. On August 27 there was another heavy rainfall, and Ohl found that several of the ceramic rattles that she makes and has in her yard had floated all throughout the town, as far as the football field and the Chat n' Chew.

According to Ohl, there are 24 properties that were affected by this problem. "We decided we needed to address this as a community concern," she said. Right now, Ohl and her son are packed and ready to leave the home if it becomes dangerous for them to stay there.

Many residents in the audience agreed with Ohl's statements, and many gave their own testimony as to the damage in their homes caused by water run-off. Dave Huisenga, who owns the Habberstad House with his wife Nancy, stated, "It's a serious problem." He added that no matter what Ohl does with her property to keep it safe, it will impact everyone else in the area.

One resident mentioned that usually flood insurance will not cover damage caused by run-off, only damage caused by rivers rising over the bank.

The concerned residents suggested in the letter that a storm water and sediment control basin be installed at the top of the hill before the new road where the new construction is located. This could retain the water uphill and slow the flow downhill to the homes below. They also requested that storm sewers be cleaned out more frequently than every three years.

Ohl read off a list of 24 people who had suffered damage to their homes and property, all of them living on Whittier Street, Fillmore Avenue, Kenilworth Avenue or Sheridan Street.

Many residents stated that even during a light rain, the water is wearing away the road in the area and leaving debris wherever it goes. More than one person in the audience commented that they have lived on their street for more than 20 years and have never seen water problems like this before. They all agreed that problems began when the property above was developed and the private road put in.

Donnie Wangen asked why the road was allowed to be placed there, when twenty years ago somebody else tried to develop the area. At that time, according to Wangen, the work was stopped by the council because the hill was too steep and there was too much water run-off. He stated that he had helped Ohl with cleaning out her basement and was concerned for her and the others in the area.

Mayor Steve Rahn said the city knows there are problems in the area, one of which is too few storm sewers. City Administrator Bobbie Torgerson mentioned that residents who suffered damage from the rains can have their property registered with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Since Fillmore County has been declared a disaster area due to the flooding, there is a possibility for some kind of assistance.

Council member Joe O'Connor made a motion consisting of three options the city has in the matter. He believes the residents with damage should submit a claim to FEMA. He mentioned that one of the Capital Improvement Projects that is high on the priority list is Whittier Street, which they are hoping will be improved in the next year. More storm sewers will be added at that time, hopefully helping with the problems. O'Connor suggested hiring an engineer to look at the watershed and the problem areas, to help attack the water control issue. The city will also interact with FEMA to identify potential resources.

Park Water Problems

Steve Klotz from the Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) was at the meeting to explain a recent Cease and Desist Order issued to the city for work being done at the park ponds that is a potential violation of water control laws.

Excess water around the area has been a problem for many years. Robert Thompson explained that he had volunteered to help with the project to help drain the water. He had believed that the ponds were the property of the city, and was unaware that the DNR needed to be involved. He laid pipe and drain tiles, which he stated were to get rainwater to go into the pond. He also apologized for not contacting the DNR.

According to Klotz, the pond is a designated trout stream, and there is a public waters process that needs to be followed. Klotz said he would like to work with the city so he can protect the quality of the pond water while the city takes care of the excess rainwater.

"We just want to work with the city, and keep the ponds a valuable resource to Lanesboro," said Klotz.

Other business

• Jason Harvey of Lanesboro wrote a letter to the council asking permission to run drain tile from the south end of his house out to the west, and under the sidewalk. During the last two heavy rainfalls Harvey also experienced flooding in his basement. Harvey would do all of the work, and there would be no cost to the city. It was agreed to have Andy Drake work with the Harveys on the project.

• Carla Noack wanted to thank the EDA and citizens who gave input on the Lanesboro 20/20 plan for the future. According to Noack, it is a living document, and more input is always welcome. She is hoping the city can use it in their future planning for the city. The plans can be seen on the city of Lanesboro's web site.

• The council agreed to turn over A Prairie Home Companion funds of around $10,000 to the Park Board and the city administrator to use as they deem appropriate to improve the community center. Some things that are needed are a refrigerator and baby changing stations in the bathrooms, as well as new tables and chairs.

• Torgerson presented the council with the preliminary budget and levy for 2008. It was decided that the levy would be set at $408,224, which is a 12 percent increase over last year.

• The council approved closing off the street between Kenilworth Avenue and Fillmore Ave. for a small block party on September 22.

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