TOWER— Wastewater treatment capacity topped the Tower Economic Development Authority’s agenda last Thursday night, as the board discussed ways to respond to a pending shortage of treatment …
TOWER— Wastewater treatment capacity topped the Tower Economic Development Authority’s agenda last Thursday night, as the board discussed ways to respond to a pending shortage of treatment capacity just as the city is poised for significant new development.
Wastewater plant operator Matt Tuchel outlined the current situation, and updated the board on the latest estimate of remaining capacity in the wake of the city’s planned hook-up of the Hoodoo Point Campground. While Tuchel said the additional flow from the campground had originally been estimated at 10,000 gallons per day, he said a new engineer’s estimate lowered that number to 6,250 gallons per day. ‘That leaves us just under 8,000 gallons per day remaining,” he said.
That’s enough for the first round of 20 town homes at the harbor, he said, which are expected to generate about 4,800 gallons per day. “Dave Rose’s campground is estimated at about 2,000 gallons per day,” he added.
A second round of 20 town homes currently in the planning stage would add another 4,800 gallons. “At that point we’re out?” asked developer Orlyn Kringstad, who was in the audience. “In fact it could be earlier than that, possibly,” responded Tuchel.
Tuchel noted that the final decisions would be up to the city, which has to approve connections. “If, say, town homes and Dave Rose come in at the same time and they say there’s only capacity for one, then the city has to decide if they get the extension or not,” he said.
Tuchel was asked about the hotel project that Kringstad has been pursuing and whether that would be problematic from a capacity issue. “Oh, absolutely,” Tuchel said.
Given the situation, TEDA members expressed strong support for addressing the problem as quickly as possible, which led to a lengthy discussion of options. All agreed that building new capacity may have to be part of the solution, but that project would take time and considerable funding, probably in excess of $1 million.
Tuchel suggested that both Breitung and Tower begin taking more steps to reduce inflow and infiltration, or “I and I,” which could buy time as the wastewater board works towards added capacity.
Breitung Supervisor and wastewater board member Greg Dostert noted, however, that anything the board does is likely to cost money that the wastewater district doesn’t have. “In reality, right now the wastewater board is strapped,” he said.
Even preparing a funding application by the March 1 deadline for the state’s public facilities authority, would likely cost several thousand dollars, he noted. He added that residents of Breitung may not be as receptive to incurring the cost of adding new sewage capacity, and he said some skepticism remains in the community about whether the development projects will actually happen. “Your plans are wonderful, but we’ve put a lot of seed in the ground, and don’t see the harvest yet,” he said. “The only shovel in the ground recently has been at the cemetery,” he added.
“A lot of things are happening behind the scenes that aren’t always apparent right away,” responded TEDA member Joan Broten.
Dostert said the wastewater board has been aware of the capacity concern for a couple years, but had assumed they would have more time to address it. “Hoodoo Point is a big add-on,” he said. “It’s really pushing us to the brink, I would say.”
Broten and TEDA President Marshall Helmberger said they plan to attend the wastewater board meeting on Dec. 20 to encourage the members to take action to address the wastewater issue.
In other action, the TEDA board:
• Approved a motion to recommend that the city of Tower move ahead with construction of 8,000-8,500 square foot building in the industrial park, about half of which would be occupied by Lamppa Manufacturing. The additional space would be available for other prospective businesses or for later expansion by Lamppa Manufacturing.
• Approved a motion to recommend that the city of Tower submit an application to Minnesota Power for a cobra-style streetlight to be located at the new entrance to the Marjo Motel. Current motel operator Orlyn Kringstad has asked the city council to approve the new light to provide visibility for the new entrance, which was moved as part of the city’s Hwy. 169 bridge project. Kringstad has offered to the pay the $197 installation cost and the $22 a month in electricity for the light. Minnesota Power requires that the city make the application for the new streetlight. MnDOT officials have already indicated their support for the project if the city agrees to be the permittee.
• Discussed how to respond to three different letters from two prospective business owners as well as the new owner of the city marina. Luke Kujawa, of Your Boat Club, reiterated his understanding that TEDA would assist his business in obtaining demolition funding from the IRRRB’s demolition program. The new owners are looking at demolishing the existing docks and canopies, a collapsed sea wall, building interior walls, and the removal of ramps and gangways, along with heaved pilings. Helmberger said he’s been in contact with the IRRRB and will follow up with the agency. Kujawa also expressed concern about the prospects for a new hotel, given the wastewater limitations. He noted that his project was undertaken with an understanding that a new hotel was in the works.
• TEDA member Steve Peterson agreed to follow up with Karin and Doug Trail Johnson, who are looking at purchasing and renovating the former Classy Cars property owned by Ron Abrahamson Sr. The couple has a number of questions and is seeking financial options for a feasibility or market study, as well as demolition and renovation dollars.