Maple Lake, Annandale consider joint water treatment plant

Maple Lake and Annandale already share high school wrestling and hockey teams, along with joint Community Education Services.  Now city government appears ready to follow the path blazed by the school districts as the two communities begin the exploration of a shared wastewater treatment facility.

On July 17, the Maple Lake and Annandale city councils met in a joint session at Maple Lake City Hall for a face-to-face informational session and discussion on the issues involved in the proposed joint venture.

Brad DeWolf, of the consulting engineers and land surveyors company of Bolton and Menk, Inc., led the two councils through a presentation of the proposed Annandale/Maple Lake Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The facility would be constructed with a capacity to serve the needs of both communities for 20 years and DeWolf presented figures showing the anticipated growth in both Annandale and Maple Lake over that 20-year period. Both communities could be expected to grow by 30 new homes each year, with Annandale at a slightly higher population growth of 1,620 over 20 years and Maple Lake at 1,500 for a combined population of 7,433.

DeWolf said the average flow to the plant would be about a 60/40 split between the communities.

A site has not been selected for the facility, but it would need at least 10 acres located approximately half-way between Annandale and Maple Lake on the south side of Highway 55. Discharge from the facility would be directed south to the North Fork Crow River (via the wildlife management area).

The estimated cost for the wastewater treatment facility, including various engineering and legal fees, would be $9,075,000.

DeWolf said that estimate was likely on the high side, but the timing is right to consider a shared facility, with Maple Lake making plans for a $3.2 million upgrade to its water treatment facilities and Annandale is considering a new $5.8 million plant.

But the big advantage for both cities would be in operation and maintenance costs. DeWolf said about 30 percent of wastewater costs are from operation and maintenance, with Annandale’s annual costs at about $200,000 and Maple Lake’s at $150,000. A combined operation would provide an annual savings of $100,000.

“The way we should be looking at this is the economic impact on both communities,” said Maple Lake Mayor Mike Messina. “I don’t know, but I can’t see it hurting us at all.”

DeWolf also reviewed the possible funding sources for the facility, with some possible grant opportunities, but the most likely financing in the form of loans from the Public Facilities Authority at an interest rate from 2 to 3 percent per year.  If approved, the timetable for the project would call for preparation of plans and specifications this fall, purchase of land and finalization of plans by October, advertisement and awarding of bids next spring, with construction initiated in May of 2003 and completion in November of 2004.

DeWolf was asked if the figures on expected growth for the area were too conservative, with Maple Lake alone looking at a number of residential developments that would bring a level of growth well above the anticipated 30 homes per year. “We have people who are kind of coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘Boy, we want to develop,’” said Messina.

DeWolf said that the growth figures were averaged out over 20 years and were probably on the conservative side to prevent the construction of a water treatment plant that would become a burden on taxpayers if the anticipated growth did not materialize.

“But if this area takes off (in growth) like the rest of Wright County,” DeWolf said, “this is not a 20-year facility, it’s probably a 10.” He said the treatment plant can be constructed with growth in mind so that future expansion will be a less costly proposition.

County Commissioner Ken Jude suggested that the purchase of a water treatment plant site also be made with growth in mind and called the proposal for the shared facility “a golden opportunity.”

“I’d certainly encourage you to look further at it because there’s more advantages than disadvantages,” Jude said.

Annandale council member Jim Latour agreed. “I hope we can come together on this,” he said. “I think in 20 years, we’ll look back on these meetings and say, ‘Boy, were we on the ball.’”

Maple Lake council member Mike O’Loughlin said one potential downside of the project would be if development is spurred along the Highway 55 corridor because of the close proximity to city utilities, joining both communities into one long metropolitan area.

Jude said members of both communities might think they are losing their identity and control, but he said there is much to be gained through cooperation, such as the mutual aid agreements between the local fire departments. He also said that as a past member of the Maple Lake School Board, there were times when consolidation of schools with Annandale was seriously considered. “You can have your identity, but you can still work together,” he said.     The meeting concluded with the Annandale City Council approving a motion to authorize a facility plan application with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for a regional system with the City of Maple Lake.

Since Maple Lake already has made application for its planned facilities upgrade, the council approved a motion to authorize a concurrent facility plan application with the MPCA for the regional system with Annandale.

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