It was an eventful meeting Monday night when the Palmer Twp. Board met, as the supervisors reviewed a few issues that have been brewing for some time. Ironically, despite this summer’s drought, both items deal with water and what to do when there’s too much of it.
The first issue the board tackled is a review of the township’s current high water ordinance. Enacted nearly 20 years ago, the ordinance has been successful in prohibiting wakes from watercraft during high water events. The ordinance is meant to encourage better water quality on the lakes, as the shoreline is much better protected and fewer erosion issues occur when the waves from watercraft aren’t crashing onto unprotected shorelines during these high water events.
Ganz announced to the audience, however, that the township is getting close to “washing its hands” of the ordinance because of disagreements about its enforceability.
“If this goes away, we need the people to know it’s not us (the township), but rather the county,” said Ganz. “There are seven bullet points that are being questioned by the county and it’s leading to the ordinance not being enforced.”
The board also discussed the difficulty in getting the DNR to respond in a timely matter to the high water events, as the bureaucracy requires a specific procedure that needs to be followed to have an accurate measurement of the water each time.
“We’ve been doing the exact same thing for years and in that time we’ve had about 20-25 high water, no wake events,” added Supervisor Steve Demeules. “It’s worked great the entire time but now we’re being told there are issues.”
The board decided to wait another month to see if the process can be worked out, as Ganz noted he recently spoke with County Attorney Kathleen Heaney. However, if a solution cannot be reached, then the board signaled they are ready to scrap the ordinance rather than spend the thousands of dollars necessary to try and remedy it through alternative legal channels or new, altered ordinances.
The next water related issue came to light when a local resident identified only by her first name, Deb, appeared before the board and was upset about a drainage issue at her property. She stated that during heavy rains, water drains down the roadway and then into her yard, where it floods an outbuilding that contains her hot water heater, extinguishing the pilot light. In addition, she felt the drains located in the area do not receive enough maintenance and this exacerbates the issue.
Ganz addressed the issue of drainage in general, stating that there are issues like this across the township near the bottom of hills and one of the remedies would be to install ditches in the area, but homeowners don’t want these because it interferes with their yard. In this specific case, the homeowner cannot have a ditch because her well is located in that area. Ganz also noted that the road in question has been there since the early 1950’s and there is little the township can do because water will always run downhill towards the lakes.
In the past, the homeowner had worked with the Sherburne SWCD who had recommended a French drain in the area that was estimated to cost $15,000. Deb felt that the township should bore the cost of the drain, as she is on a fixed income and cannot afford to spend that kind of money at her cabin.
The board responded that part of the problem is the original sighting of some homes that are built in low areas. In the past, the township has fought against some building plan locations but ultimately the county issued permits and the structures were constructed precisely where there would be water issues.
One of the options discussed to address this issue was the Lake Association grants that are available for landowners to help sustain and improve the water quality in the chain of lakes. Another option was to try and install larger rocks that might help divert some of the water, giving it time to soak into the ground before it causes the issues.
In the end, Ganz explained that the board could take a look at the issue, but there wouldn’t be an easy fix.
“We could dump $100,000 on some of these issues in the blink of an eye and it won’t solve the issue totally because water is still going to flow down hill,” Ganz said.
In Other Business, the Board:
• Discussed a recently received bill from Republic Services that was for services rendered over four months ago at the township’s clean up day. Treasurer Roger Johnson lamented the delayed nature of the bill and how it came after the deadline had passed for applying for the SCORE Grant funds from the county. He continues to work on the issue and will report back next month;
• Heard from the Clear Lake Fire Department regarding last month’s 28 calls for service, including 12 in Palmer Twp;
• Discussed another successful Palmer Day event;
• Approved plans to seed the right of way holder area near 59th Ct. where the lack of lawn coverage on a resident’s property is causing sand drifts;
• Made a decision to mow the ditches one more time and explored the idea of renting a chipper to help in the brushing of some areas, including intersections, where increased visibility would make the roads safer;
• Agreed to contract with MJS Dirtworks to add flares to an existing culvert which is in nee dof repair. Rip rap will also be installed to help with water control;
• Decided to seek bids for the possible replacement of the Palmer Park septic system;
• Heard from Ganz who shared an email received by the Palmer Day committee in which the guest noted the excellent celebration and complimented the entire community for their participation in the event;
• Discussed the concept of a single hauler trash program which would alleviate the multiple trips currently occurring on township roads, as sometimes as many as six heavy garbage trucks make trips on the same road each week. The frequent usage is having a deleterious effect on the roadway surfaces;
• Listened to an update from Demeules, who explained that the county is moving towards a structured setback averaging system for new construction in the shoreland overlay district. Without a formal application process, the township could lose their water runoff mitigation recommendations, therefore causing a negative effect on water quality.
The board will meet next on October 11 at 7 p.m. at the Palmer Twp. Hall.