The meeting was called to order by Chairman Nevalainen with everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Board members in attendance were; Robert Nevalainen, Richard McGregor, Edward Town, Jill Kiner and Marlene Tomczak. Guests in attendance were; Mike Kolb (St. Louis County), Mike Larson, Denny Reagan, Jim Johnson and Dan Vial (SEH), Gary Cerkvenik (Lobbyist), Bridget Chard (Consultant) and Robert Ruppe (Attorney) on conference call. There were 22 residents in attendance.
Agenda – Chairman Nevalainen moved to accept the agenda as is, seconded by Supervisor Town, motion carried. PPSSD residents Jack McMahon and Larry Warrington asked to be put on record as objecting to SEH attending the meeting. PPSSD resident Bill Congdon asked to be put on record that he was in favor of SEH attending the meeting.
Consultant Bridget Chard suggested that the board allow SEH to give their presentation to explain their presence here.
Speaker, Gary Cerkvenik Lobbyist, SEH – Mr. Cerkvenik used to work for Congressman Oberstar many years ago, he was a St. Louis County Commissioner who dealt with these types of issues. He has been a lobbyist on the state and federal level for a number of years. Mr. Cerkvenik lives in Britt, MN and has knowledge of the relationships that we all have with northern St. Louis County. One thing that is very clear for sanitary sewer projects, economic development and infrastructure is that it is very difficult to get money for local communities from outside sources. An asset that this area has is Voyageurs National Park and we need to turn it to our advantage and leverage funding and that is why Mr. Cerkvenik is here. Mr. Cervenik’s idea for a funding source would be a congressional earmark. He gave the following background on this.
Congress appropriates money to run the government every year on an annual basis; they have a budget process, an authorization process and an appropriations process. We will try to get funding through an annul appropriations bill. Congress does not generally fund little projects like this, they’ll give a chunk of money for clean water for the United States and it’s divided among the agencies and you compete with everybody else. It is not easy to get funds this way. Mr. Cerkvenik went beyond the competition and asked Mr. Oberstar if he would introduce a direct appropriation (earmark) to fund PPSSD for 1.25 million dollars to give PPSSD a federal grant (100% federal money) to build their project. It is then in sub-committee, there is a sub-committee hearing for water & energy appropriations (sub-committee) and they report out a bill and they are actually reporting a bill out today (6/26/08). When information comes down on this bill Mr. Cerkvenik will contact Chairman Nevalainen.
Now if it gets it in the house (sub-committee on appropriations) it then has to go through the full committee. After the full committee, it has to get the house to pass it. Once the house passes it then you match it up with the senate as well. Senators Klobuchar and Coleman have both introduced this legislation on behalf of PPSSD, we then go through their sub-committee, full committee, full senate. The two bills are different, then it goes to what is called a conference committee, things get worked out, the president weighs in, the president decides how many earmarks there will be. This is the Pucks Point section of the process.
Larger Issue (Namakan Basin Project) What happens if we don’t get the 1.25 million? We then look at it as a larger picture (Namakan Basin – Kabetogama Township, Crane Lake Township, Ash River Trail). Mr. Oberstar has written legislation that has been submitted on April 25th to the Water Resources Redevelopment Act, its an authorization. We are asking basically that Congress is authorized to fund a 28 million dollar project over a 5 year period to fund projects in all three of these areas (Kabetogama, Crane Lake, Ash River). This is being referred to as plan B. If we receive the 1.25 million dollars it will be independent of the plan B. It is possible to get both sets of funding. In that case the 1.25 million will take care of PPSSD and the other funding will be spread out between the three areas (Kabetogama, Crane Lake, Ash River). These three entities will decide on what happens how, when and where. If the 1.25 million funds get approved we would receive them in 2010. The 1.25 million project is a direct appropriations project not an Army Corp of Engineers project. It is 100% grant money. Regarding the 28.8 million dollars; Congress will only do earmarks for up to about 75 to 80% of a project so congressional money covers about 21 of the 28 million we are asking for. That leaves a gap. The gap is funded by asking the State of MN through their bi-annual bonding bill to fund the 7 million dollar gap as a grant to this project to match the Federal money. We have asked Senator Bakk and Representative Dill who said they would introduce the legislation. Bonding bills happen every other year in the State Legislature and are roughly a billion dollars in size. The State generally spends a billion dollars every other year for Capital Investments. What are the steps form here on out? Since we can’t pay for all this ourselves, Mr. Cerkvenik approached the County Commissioners who on July 1st carrying on a proposal to get us about 100 thousand dollars in planning money so we can start to implement this project. What is SEH’s part in this? SEH has agreed to do work at no charge and no obligation so far to the township. Their business structure and how they operate is if they can help us get the money then they get the work if the money does not come through they don’t have any work and we don’t have a project. They are here helping Mr. Cerkvenik to prepare materials, a plan ect. SEH has been helping work with St. Louis County to get the 100 thousand dollars. We are on the agenda for the Committee on July 1, 2008. If we get that money we then go to the IRRB and ask them for 100 thousand dollars to match. We would then have 200 thousand dollars of grant money to use over the next couple of years to plan out work so if we get the Federal money and we get the State money we can work our plan (B), that is the overall big picture.
Following Mr. Cerkvenik’s presentation there were many questions and much discussion. One question that came up was what if Ash River Trail does not agree to become involved in this big project? That could possibly stop the project. Another question was how is the district set up with the three different areas? Until we get some funds for research we can’t answer that question. If and when these funds were to come through then research will be done to plan how best to solve the sewer project or projects. The goal of SEH through the whole process is to keep our cost in terms of the planning monies, in terms of the design & construction funds as close to zero as we can. Hopefully once the project is finished the only cost we would have is the cost of maintaining & operation. We should know about the 100 thousand by the end of August, IRRB money by the end of the year. A question was asked that who sets the priorities on these projects? The people or the joint powers? If we get the appropriations for PPSSD the priorities get set here locally. For the Federal money, it goes to the Army of Corp of Engineers. They would set the priorities based upon local input but it would not be completely our decision.
Discussion regarding PPSSD – Does PPSSD want to move forward? Where will the funds come from? Some of the 200 thousand can be used for this project going forward only and then there is the 1.25 million if it comes through. A hand vote was called foe to see if PPSSD should hold off spending any more monies until the federal grant comes through. All in favor except for an opposing vote by Larry Warrington. Mr. Cerkvenik has been hired by the township to lobby for funds and that is at no cost to the PPSSD project.
State and Federal funds can be used for residential and commercial properties.
Easements – Rural Development indicated that you would need a permanent access maintenance easement in order to fund the property hookup. There are two types of easements; Temporary Construction Easement and Permanent Maintenance Access Easement. With these easements the homeowner would not have to pay the cost of the hookups.
NAWE – Will not do any more work without another contract.
Compliant Wastewater Systems – There is an In Lieu of clause that can be used for these systems but they have to realize that there will be costs down the line. These costs will be determined by a formula set up in an ordinance and that cost will be much higher than
they would be paying right now if they were to hook up. These residents are still in the district but are not hooking up at this time because they are currently in compliance.
A question came up regarding systems that are currently suffering. St. Louis County will be lenient on suffering systems and give them temporary options and more time because there is a plan already in place (PPSSD). There is also no need for compliance checks right now.
User Fee – this will be discussed at a later date.
Grant Application Reimbursement - It is possible to get reimbursed up to $3,500.00 per application made. Bridget says she may have done 4 of them. She will get the information to the township ASAP.
Land Options – This will continue to be discussed.
A hand vote was taken: If SEH is able to obtain the $200,000 Grant from St. Louis County & IRRB to do a feasibility study for the three areas, Kabetogama, Ash River and Crane Lake then PPSSD would retain them (SEH) as the engineer for their project. Eight persons were in favor and 2 abstaining.
Following more discussion, Bridget Chard left the meeting at 8:45 pm.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 pm.
Mary Manninen, Clerk