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Water Concerns Generate Discussion

By Staff | Aug 22, 2013

Even though it wasn’t an agenda item, an ongoing concern over water levels in wells around the county came back up for discussion by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during its weekly meeting Tuesday.

Supervisor Linus Solberg opened the discussion by asking what county department could be responsible for doing the checking of well levels if the supervisors were to purchase a measuring device.

“I’m just thinking about the concerns that we’ve heard about the level of wells, like from the Mayor of Mallard expressed, with all the confinements going in around Mallard,” Solberg said. “Another one is the cement plant at Cylinder – they’re using a ton of water at that plant and all the wells in Cylinder are just sand points.”

Solberg continued, “we should have one of those machines and go and check on well levels whenever there is a concern.”

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz pointed out that his office, and the county, for that matter, wouldn’t have the legal authority to check a private well.

“If the people asked, then we could go in and test their wells,”?Solberg replied.

“That’s true,”?Fantz agreed, “but the county just couldn’t pull up to someone’s place and check on a well without their permission.”

“Joel’s right,”?agreed County Auditor Carmen Moser. “We have no jurisdiction over wells.”

“Well, who does?” Solberg asked. “We’re not forcing anyone to do this, its just something we would have if people wanted to use it.”

“But, even if we had it, we can’t do anything about it,” noted Board Chair Ron Graettinger. “Wells are the responsibility of the DNR. They have all the authority on wells.”

“I would agree that this is a concern, but the DNR?has all the authority, like Ron said,”?noted Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “I don’t know what you can do about it, though.”

The discussion turned toward what county department could perform the monitoring, with the thought being that County Sanitarian Joe Neary could take on the duties, but no decision was made on the issue as the conversation ended.

Also discussed by the board was the ongoing Mental Health Redesign, and the difficulty in funding ongoing mental health services under the new redesign.

During her briefing to the board, Maureen Sandberg, Mental Health Director, noted that after news stories last week came out about the financial problems of O’Brien County for its mental health programs, she had the opportunity to visit with officials of Horizons’ Unlimited in Emmetsburg.

“I talked with the people at Horizons, and they are very aware that we may have to revamp the Work Activity program,”?Sandberg noted. “There are 70-year olds that are still working, and they want to work, but we’re not going to be able to keep funding that. The staff at Horizons are a little panicked about the situation.”

With the state-mandated mental health redesign setting the maximum levy for mental health at $47.28 per thousand, Palo Alto County’s levy amount dropped by 35 percent for the most recent tax assessments.

“No one in here ever complained about the amount of tax levies for mental health,”?noted Solberg.

“Those people will also be upset when there is no money for mental health,”?Sandberg said. “Talking with the families of clients during staffings last week, they all know we don’t have the money, and they’re not happy. They’re not upset with the county, but they’re upset with the state government.”

In other items of business, Engineer Joel Fantz presented three utility permits for approval. The first was to Ringsted Telephone, RingTel, for the installation of a six-pair underground cable along 540 Avenue in Section nine of Independence Township.

Also submitted were two permits for installation of underground electrical lines along 450 Street in Fern Valley Sections 35 and 36 and West Bend Section 1 for the West Bend Municipal Utilities.

Fantz reported that the replacement of a small bridge private crossing over an open ditch in DD64 had been completed, using an 84-inch culvert.

“The final bill was $12.600, and it was a private crossing,”?Fantz explained, “However, there was an agreement on file where the district assumed responsibility for the crossing. But, Jeff Stillman, the landowner, paid $6,000 toward the cost, which he didn’t need to do, but was much appreciated.”

In a final item, the board considered a request from Roger Baker for reimbursement. Baker had appeared before the board on June 18 to request payment for repairs to a county tile that he had paid for two years earlier.

Baker was told at that time to submit a bill for consideration.

“He paid for the work on his farm, but then he went and sold the land. Now, he wants reimbursement for it,”?Graettinger noted. “I?think we ought to deny his claim.”

Auditor Carmen Moser noted the land in question, a lateral of DD62, in Booth Section 11, would shoulder 51 percent of any levy placed against the district, meaning that the new landowner would receive a substantial levy for something done years earlier.

“I’d move to deny the claim,”?Supervisor Jerry Hofstad said, “I don’t think its right.”

The motion as seconded and approved unanimously.