The city of Lake Elmo is feeling the pinch of growing pains as it works to keep up with the demand for water in its expanding I-94 corridor neighborhoods. During the last few hours of the 2013-2014 legislative session, both the Senate and House passed measures to provide $3.5 million to fund a much-needed water main in Lake Elmo. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on May 20.
A state bond of $3.5 million will provide financial backing for a new water main line that will be installed down Inwood Avenue to the I-94 corridor. The line will allow the city to provide clean water to residents affected by perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination in the southwest quadrant of the city.
“This funding is huge for the financial welfare of the community,” Finance Committee Chairman Wally Nelson said. “It allows us to fix financial problems of the past and address our growth in a fiscally responsible manner.”
The project plans for the water main improvement project were completed and accepted by the city council during its April 15 meeting, but bids to begin the project were not advertised because the plans for the Inwood Avenue Booster Station had not been completed.
“From an engineering stand point, we don’t have the booster station, and it looks like that will not be operational until 2015,” City Engineer Jack Griffin said on April 15.
There were also concerns during the April 15 meeting that without the state bonding, the city would not be able to carry the cost of the water main project and remain bank qualified for bonding while they also carried the Lake Elmo Avenue water main project.
“We need to stay under $10 million in our borrowing,” City Administrator Dean Zuleger said.
The bill was a bipartisan effort with Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, and Sen. Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, leading the charge in the Senate and Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Joanne Ward, D-Oakdale, spearheading the effort in the House. Other sponsors in the House included Rep. Matt Dean, R-Stillwater; Peter Fischer, D-White Bear Lake; Denny McNamara, R-Hastings; and Leon Lillie, D-Maplewood.
“When it came to clean water, these legislators put their partisan differences aside and worked together to do the right thing,” Mayor Mike Pearson said. “In all we had over 70 meetings with legislators and testified in three hearings to stress the importance of this project.”
In addition to Pearson, lobbyist James Clark, city staff, city council members and private citizens lobbied to make this bonding possible.
“This was really a full-team effort that will make our community stronger,” Pearson said. “In addition, our ability to work with legislators and state agencies may help us to shed our old image of being difficult to work with as a community. In many ways this bonding bill represents a new day for Lake Elmo.”
As part of the bond agreement, taxpayers in Lake Elmo will not be required to pay back the bond to the state.
“There is no payback provision in the bond,” Zuleger said. “It was a nice surprise for us.”
During the May 20 meeting, the city finalized a developer’s agreement with Lennar Homes for the Savona development — the first the city has signed in seven years. The Savona development will directly benefit from the Inwood Avenue water main project.
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