Watershed district costs rising

Increase of $10,000 is on the horizon for 2013, Linwood Town Board learns last week

Alice Pickering
Linwod Reporter

Linwood Township is one of four members of the Sunrise River Water Management Organization. Each city or township has two representatives on the SRWMO board, with equal votes.

SRWMO works to make improvements to the watershed, with the costs of projects funded by member communities. Representation is equal, but the project costs are apportioned by the amount of watershed area within each of these communities.

Some on-going projects include monitoring water quality and projects to help improve the water quality.  Both Typo and Martin lakes are identified as impaired lakes, as well as the West Branch of the Sunrise River which connects them.

Recently a decision was made to install carp barriers between the two lakes. This is to be done in stages as money becomes available.

About 45 percent of the watershed lies within Linwood Township; the next largest area is in Columbus, followed by East Bethel. About four percent of the watershed is in Ham Lake.

Cost Issues

The SRWMO has secured grants to help pay for these barriers. Linwood must come up with $35,000 to match the $135,000 grant.  However, this is in addition to the township portion of the annual budget. The Martin Lakers have contributed funds and pledged other funds to this project.

For 2012, Linwood’s share of the SRWMO budget is between $18,000 and $19,000. The proposed 2013 budget is $65,780, with Linwood’s share at $29,388.  Each municipality must approve the budget.

If approved by a majority vote, it would mean Linwood’s contribution to the SRWMO will increase about $10,000.

Supervisor Bob Millerbernd, a non-voting liaison for the township, brought the information to the Linwood Town Board meeting on Jan. 24. Millerbernd believes this is a large funding increase for the township funding and he is concerned.  He wants to be able to explain all this clearly at the Linwood Annual Meeting on March 13.

On the other hand, Millerbernd said improving the water quality in Martin Lake benefits many more people than just those who live around the lake. Many others in the township and outside it use the lake for fishing and recreation.  So he believes there is justification for the Linwood contribution to SRWMO.

One outcome of the meeting was to request Jamie Schurbon, Anoka Conservation District, to attend a town board meeting to explain why some of the projects cannot be done in stages in order to keep average overall costs a little lower, so one agency is not so hard-hit financially in one year.

The SRWMO will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2 at the East Bethel City Hall, 2241 NE 221st Ave., East Bethel.  This meeting is to refine budget numbers.

Crown Castle

Crown Castle has proposed a lease agreement with Linwood Township related to the communications tower in Broadbent Park. Attorney Gerald Randall told the board that a Crown Castle representative calls regularly to find out the board’s decision.

The proposal is complicated enough that Randall recommended the township hire a consultant who has worked with these types of legal arrangements. In addition, Clerk Judy Hanna was directed to check with the Minnesota Association of Townships to determine if and how other townships have dealt with similar issues.

The entire board agreed with Chair Mike Parker, who said “we need to take our time” to clearly understand proposed terms and benefit to the township.

Randall said he will have the final form of the data practices ordinance ready for the next board meeting.

No Buy Backs

The town board voted to repeal the township policy of buying out unused vacation time.

Supervisor Mike Halliday said he is concerned about the possibility of several employees taking advantage of this policy, affecting the township budget sharply.  Some employees do not or cannot take their vacation time and it cumulates.

Most companies encourage employees to take vacation for which they are eligible, as recreation and relaxation time.

Employees can carry over some vacation time. The motion to repeal, passed by a vote of 3-1.  Supervisor Phil Osterhus voted against the motion. Mike Budde, who is a township employee, abstained.

Other Topics

Randall told the board some of the nuisance properties have been cleaned up or are improved enough that he believes they can be taken off the nuisance property list.

The family of Glenn Barrett has an easement to access property near the Linwood Community and School Forest. The recommendation is for the township to negotiate with the estate to buy the easement. Barrett’s son felt the township was cutting him off from accessing the property.

The township will look into having a different lock and key for that gate, separate from the other locks in other secured park areas.

Emily Raml was approved by the board as a Linwood school representative to the Linwood Community and School Forest Committee. Raml had submitted a letter of interest in the position. The vote was unanimous.

Other Business

In other business, the board:

•Unanimously approved a pay equity report form and authorized Chairman Parker to sign the compliance form.

•Was asked by Parker to review a job description for lead maintenance worker that will be considered for adoption at the next board meeting.

•Approved a contract with Hennepin Technical Institute for Budde and Chris Herring to attend OSHA compliance training courses. Cost for the two is $720.

•Learned office staff will be changing swipe key access codes to the senior center.

•Voted to leave medical insurance benefits policy for personnel as is. The vote was 4-0, with Budde abstaining.

•Unanimously approved payment of the Jan. 24 bills in the amount of $18,843.77.

•Unanimously approved the meeting minutes from Jan. 10.

•By a 5-0 vote, approved the budget meeting minutes from Jan. 11.

•Met Jan. 25 for a budget workshop meeting.