The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution establishing a subordinate service district to handle wastewater needs of Greenleafton residents during a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 13, following a public hearing on the issue.

About a dozen people showed up for the hearing with three persons speaking, mostly to ask questions how the costs would be determined and what would be required for the district.

Prior to the hearing, Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative representative Sheila Craig and Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson told the commissioners that they had been working three to five years on trying to bring a better way to handle wastewater into Greenleafton. A community assessment was completed, which led to several options to consider. York Township was in on the initial planning, but dropped out and Fillmore County became the proposed fiscal host for funding.

The project to set up a wastewater collection and treatment system would be paid for by a combination of grants that would pay 75 percent of the cost and a low interest loan from the state to pay the remaining 25 percent. Residents would be required to pay back the costs included in the loan portion, likely over a 10-year period at a maximum interest rate of 3 percent.

The rough boundaries of the service district are the residential area of Greenleafton with the exception of the church. All parcels would be included in the district and once it is established, the county would then acquire land for a treatment system that may be located outside the district.

Ruth Ann Younts, a property owner in Greenleafton, told the commissioners that she spent $15,000 on a new septic system within the last three years and said she would have a "double whammy" if she were asked to pay for the district system since she is still making payments on her personal system.

"I'm all for environmental protection," she said, but is worried about the costs of paying for her own system, which is functioning well, and then adding on costs for a shared system.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said the board would need to set the policies on how the district would work - if homeowners with qualified personal systems could defer entry in the project or if everyone would have to participate from the start. He explained that at some point her system would be defunct and she would need to use the shared solution for her wastewater needs, or a new owner would need to do the same if she ever sold her home.

Commissioner Duane Bakke added that the commissioners haven't discussed the cost structure yet, or whether if property owners can even hook up to the system later. There was also uncertainty if all residents would be billed when the district is first put into operation or if deferment would be possible.

Craig estimated that there are only three compliant private systems in operation now and they haven't been checked to see if they meet code. Homeowners would not be allowed to put in private systems now that the district has been approved.

The commissioners speculated that if a property owner deferred, the grant money and/or low interest loan may not be available so the cost may be more to those who wait.

The project won't allow new homes to be built in the district and the board noted that wouldn't happen anyway because county zoning limits new construction of homes to parcels of a certain size.

Resident Bruce Dornink asked the commissioners what would happen if a homeowner wanted to add, say, two bedrooms to an existing house.

Craig noted that the system would be built to handle those types of changes, including a new house replacing an older house within the district. The system is planned to handle the projected capacity of the district.

Another person at the hearing said he was looking at purchasing a house in Greenleafton, but wanted to know a more precise cost. Initial estimates of $5,000 to $10,000 per homeowner is quite a range, he said, and wondered if that figure could be more exact.

Officials said they wouldn't know until the engineering has been completed and plans made. They also don't know what the monthly fee for operation and maintenance would be or if homeowners using private systems would be responsible for those monthly costs.

One thing that would affect the cost is where the treatment system would be located. Two land sites were identified within the district, but neither are available. The treatment system could be located outside the district, possibly making the cost go up depending on the distance away from Greenleafton.

In approving the resolution to establish the district, which will be set up within 30 days of publication of the resolution, Amunrud noted that no representative from the township was present at the hearing. The district will be overseen by the Fillmore County and Planning Commission.

Stantec, the company that will provide engineering services for the project, will begin surveying and geological work soon, and could finish this initial work before the end of the year.

Survey

In other action, county coordinator Karen Brown reviewed a community survey that will be going out to residents to get feedback on community life and services in the county. The survey is ready to be distributed with copies going to cities, townships, schools and libraries in the county.

The goal, she said, is to have people fill out the online survey, which will make it easier for the county to compile results. County residents may go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FCCitizenSurvey2013 to complete the online survey.

The survey is compressed from the previous community survey sent out last year with fewer questions and options to choose from this year. She is hoping to match or surpass the response rate of 44.5 percent from last year's survey.

Other action

• The board gave approval to Sheriff Daryl Jensen to hire intermittent dispatcher Tim Melver. He noted that he has four full-time people to fill the slots that run every hour of every day with part-time people filling in the gaps of about eight hours per week on a regular basis. Intermittent dispatchers are for backup when regular dispatchers are off for various reasons, such as vacation or illness. They have no schedule, so may work several hours one week, but not at all other weeks. Commissioner Tom Kaase said it is a "juggling act" because Jensen needs enough people to cover, but not too many that takes extensive time for training or results in long lapses in service.

• The board also approved a desktop controller for $2,606 to be paid from the local enhancement grant and 911 funds. Jensen said the monitor, to be purchased from Whitewater Wireless, is needed to assist at the dispatch center.

• Auditor Shirl Boelter asked the commissioners about opening 2013 legal newspaper bids prior to action taken at the meeting on Jan. 7 so the commissioners can review the bids right away, rather than having to wait for the numbers to be processed for determination. The commissioners agreed to the slight change in procedure.

• The commissioners will go on their annual board tour of county roads Tuesday, Nov. 20, to look at work completed in 2012 and projects proposed for 2013.