A hearing on Drainage District 180 Lateral 30 Tile was continued during the June 12 meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, who are considered trustees of the drainage district.
Attorney Jim Hudson explained the significance of the continued hearing.
"We've had one or two hearings and since that time, the City of Emmetsburg, landowners, and Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation were supposed to meet together to discuss their options."
Kent Rode, engineer with Kuehl & Payer, noted that the landowners had met twice since the last hearing.
"They came up with a proposal for a 12-inch tile that would go north to the detention basin in the Industrial Park," Rode explained. "The water will still pond, but it won't pond for as long and not as deep for big storms. It will improve things, but it will not solve the problem, and it doesn't meet drainage standards."
Rode noted that, in general, the property owners seemed in favor of this proposal, which was estimated to cost around $25,000. He recommended that if the parties decide to go with this option that it is done as a private tile.
Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked if Economic Development would own the park.
"Ownership would go to the people north of 25th Street," said Rode.
"Everyone will be paying their fair share according to the schedule."
"How many people?" asked Supervisor Ron Graettinger.
"It would be the nine landowners, including the City of Emmetsburg," Rode answered.
Supervisor Jerry Hofstad wondered about the depth of the retention pond.
"It would be four feet deep," said Rode.
Wirtz added that people would have to run laterals to it.
Jim Coakley, one of the landowners, stated, "There was water standing south of Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative's yard. Could the tile come further south? Would that be our responsibility?"
"I would say so, yes," Rode responded.
Graettinger wondered if Iowa Lakes Electric was the only building that wasn't drained.
Rode replied "yes."
"Is it possible to have an open ditch through there?" asked Supervisor Leo Goeders.
Rode noted that since there wasn't a remonstrance for that option, it was still possible.
"You'd be screwing up the business park with an open ditch," said Rode. "But the decision lies with the property owners."
Hudson shared that the engineers presented several different options at the last meeting with a remonstrance on some options and not others. He said that the engineers are not going to recommend the current option being discussed.
"Given all these different factors, it's better to do it as a private matter. All the landowners could enter into a private agreement-construct it, record it, and determine how to pay for future repairs. That would be the best option," said Hudson. "Over time, you may need to let others into the agreement."
He added that the problem arises if property owners back out or don't pay their assessment. There is also a question of who manages it.
"The other route is you could form your own drainage district through mutual agreement," Hudson proposed. "You would build it to specs, file a petition with the board of supervisors, and the supervisors would manage it in the future. I recommend the board not push this decision today."
"The suggestion is the nine property owners would pay 100 percent," Wirtz surmised.
Joann Coakley wondered what happens if this proposal doesn't work.
"You can continue this hearing indefinitely," said Hudson.
"So, we're paying everything?" asked Roger Chism, landowner.
"No, you wouldn't be paying engineer's fees, publication costs, attorney fees, etc. Those would be billed to the lateral," Hudson said.
Auditor Carmen Moser interjected that any outstanding warrants would go to the entire district.
"In the future, if this doesn't work, you can do something else. Engineering fees won't be lost. They'll still be there-the drainage district owns those plans and specifications and they could be used in the future."
Discussion continued on the size of the portion each of the nine landowners would pay for the proposed project.
Graettinger noted "Iowa Lakes Electric bought their land from Economic Development. I think Economic Development should be paying half of the assessment. Drainage should have been done ahead of time; it's not fair."
This comment brought applause from several landowners in attendance.
Wirtz surmised, "As a board, it looks like it's general consensus that Economic Development should take on more responsibility."
Hudson explained each of the nine property owners pays according to "relative benefit", which involves proximity, run-off, and area.
"Don't lose sight that this is a small solution to a bigger problem. The Coakley's will still have water in their basement during a big storm," Rode noted. "The ideal would be to do both-surface and subsurface drain-which was option 2B, but that was defeated by remonstrance."
The hearing recessed for a few minutes so that the assembled landowners could discuss the matter among themselves. After reconvening, Terry Bruns with Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, acted as the group's spokesman.
"We would like to see a model draft agreement and updated cost estimates. Iowa Lakes Electric would host future meetings for the nine landowners," said Bruns. "We would turn it over to the county for further management. We'd like to ask for a continuance on the hearing. We might not solve the problem, but we'll give it a shot."
"I think that makes perfect sense," Wirtz agreed.
Hudson noted, "Drainage law is supposed to facilitate drainage, not hamper it."
The hearing was continued indefinitely.