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Daily Answer Man: Township septic project already up and running

Dear Answer Man, I recently read that Oronoco Township will get about a half-million dollars to fix just 10 septic systems in an area called Kings Park. The exact amount was $605,582, which by my estimate means they're spending about $60,000 per septic site to fix this.

What's that all about?

Very good question. The money comes from the Clean Water Legacy Fund , which a lot of people think is just free money from somewhere -- the tooth fairy, maybe, or Ebenezer Scrooge after he turns over a new leaf. It's not free. Legacy money is generated by the 3/8th of 1 percent state sales tax that Minnesota voters approved in 2008 to be dedicated to environmental, natural resources and arts and cultural projects.

Personally, I think the Legacy tax is a poor way to raise and distribute public money. That's what the Legislature and executive branch departments are supposed to do. If a boatload of public money is needed for a cleanup project of this kind, it seems to me that the Legislature or a state agency should address it, rather than go through this Legacy process.

But that's an argument for another day, and it's not really about this Lake Zumbro area project, which apparently needed to be done.


Here's what I know about it.

The news came out in a Nov. 13 news release issued by state Sen. Dave Senjem's office, and the release said the township would be getting a $605,852 grant for construction of a sewage collection and treatment system for 10 properties in the Kings Park area, which is near the south end of Lake Zumbro and an area of pretty nice homes. Apparently the properties have "failing or out-of-compliance septic systems."

Problem is, that news release wasn't quite right -- the number of properties affected is 14, and that dollar figure is the total cost of the project. The grant covered about 80 percent of the total, with the rest paid for by the homeowners affected. The work already has been done and those homes now have a "shared cluster mound system," according to Sheila Craig, community facilitator for the Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative, which pursued the project in tandem with Oronoco Township.

The new system is owned by the township, which will operate and maintain it. The property owners affected will pay their share of the construction costs and then yearly operation and maintenance fees through property taxes. A Subordinate Service District was formed, so only the property owners involved pay for the 20 percent of the construction costs and the annual fees.

"We anticipate that this will solve their problems" and that no other septic cleanup work will be needed in the Kings Park area, Sheila says.

The township previously received $24,000 from the clean water fund to evaluate the options to deal with failing systems.

Panhandlers arrive in skyway

I'm not saying that people who beg for money on Rochester street corners read this column, though I could -- who doesn't read this column, basically? -- but a few weeks ago , I noted that there's nothing to keep people from asking for money in the publicly owned skyways.


As City Attorney Terry Adkins told me, the public skyways (as opposed to a few in the downtown system that are privately owned) are no different than sidewalks -- people have First Amendment rights to speak or do what they like on the sidewalk or in the skyway, as long as they're not disrupting the peace or hassling people.

Well, this week I noticed a few men doing exactly that in the skyways, only about 50 steps from the nearest Salvation Army kettle.

You read it here first.

Get the straight poop from the Answer Man every day. Send questions to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903, or answerman@postbulletin.com.

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