With a voting deadline Friday, March 11 and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources looking at starting fines Dec. 31, Petersburg residents are still looking for options that would forestall building an expensive wastewater treatment system.
The Delaware County supervisors moved their March 7 meeting upstairs to a courtroom to accommodate Petersburg citizens who wanted to revisit an issue they’d discussed for nearly four hours at a community meeting in late February.
At that meeting, the Delaware County Supervisors set a deadline for Petersburg citizens to vote on a type of wastewater system by March 11. One option put forth by the county on the ballot was a lagoon system, which would cost about $1.8 million, costing households $89-90 per month. The other is for a cluster system, which would cost about $1.31 million, resulting in monthly bills of about $75-80.
Delaware County Supervisor Shirley Helmrichs reminded Petersburg citizens that they could vote for either one or “write in their own plan” on the ballot.
“We have 19 ballots turned in at this point,” Helmrichs said. “Seventy-three properties were sent ballots.”
“I’m here to present what I heard as a bottom-line concern at the Sunday night meeting,” said Randy Nefzger, a representative of the Petersburg Community Club. He asked if removing the church buildings and school from the plan would lower the projected cost of the project. Rick Domeyer, representing SS. Peter & Paul Parish, asked for that same qualification, leaving three parish facilities out of the system. Doug Goedken wondered the same thing about houses and buildings north of town.
Several Petersburg residents wondered why they couldn’t build their own private systems instead. “I’d prefer to do my own thing in my own back yard,” Goedken said. “$77 a month for 30 years? I know I can do it cheaper myself.”
Sue Miller, of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said that removing buildings from the plan and private septic systems would increase the cost to those within the system plan to a potentially unaffordable level.
“Putting all those septic systems in Petersburg could affect the wells,” Delaware County Sanitation Administrator Dennis Lyons said. “Whereas if you go the lagoon route, it’s getting treated. That’s my concern with going out on your own.”
“So I’m going to pay EIRUSS to put a leach field on my own property?” Goedken said. “Do we even need to have EIRUSS involved?” The Eastern Iowa Regional Utility Service System works with local governments to establish agreements and plan, design, and maintain facilities such as wastewater treatment systems. In 2005, EIRUSS completed a preliminary engineering report for Petersburg.
“We decided that in previous meetings, with a straw poll,” Helmrichs said. “The vote was to ask EIRUSS to be pursued, an engineer to be pursued, and then two resolutions doing that. $18,000 has been invested into that plan. At some point, and according to the DNR, we are not at a turn-back point. We have to go forward.”
Miller said that there was only a short time before the DNR started imposing fines on the county. “Right now we are looking at Dec. 31 of this year. The county has spent $18,000 to put this plan in place. The whole idea of going through EIRUSS is a governing body to collect bills. How are you going to do that? You have trouble collecting a water bill. Two county plans have been presented to the community. Present something else to the board that solves the problem.”
Only 17 homes in Petersburg are compliant with state requirements, with septic pipes less than 200 feet from wells and properties too small to meet required well-septic separations. “Everyone here knows we have a problem,” Nefzger said. “We are hard-headed Germans. If we can’t get together with our community we might need some help. Couldn’t the county help us with our plans?”
“We’ve already gone that route. We passed two resolutions,” Helmrichs said. “Who might spearhead and pull another plan together?”
“I understand your concerns. I’m willing to listen to any alternative plans you come up with to satisfy DNR’s requirements,” supervisor Doug Dabroski said. “DNR doesn’t care how it’s done.”
Miller agreed. “You’re going to have to come up with some numbers,” she said. “Can the community come together to come up with local funding? Come up with a plan to present to the board, and I’d take a look at it.”
Miller gestured to the board “Would you?” The three supervisors nodded.
“But you know we can’t?” someone in the audience called out.
“It doesn’t look good,” Miller said.
Helmrichs reminded the citizens present that they had until 4:30 p.m. on Friday to vote on either of the presented options or to write in their own.
“If the lagoon is voted in, is that the direction we are going?” Goedken asked.
“We’d take into consideration the number of ballots that come in,” Helmrichs said. “We ask that you turn your ballots in. If you can’t vote for either, write your option in. We’ll meet again on the 14th after the ballots come in and announce the results on that day, and set up another meeting. April 4 I want to see a plan back from you. I would ask you to do your homework. We need to keep this moving ahead. Dec. 31 is going to come real quickly.”
In other news:
The Board approved an agreement to share case management work with Buchanan County. The agreement is for one year and can be terminated with 60 days notice. Delaware County will provide case management services to Buchanan County, billing them based on timesheet hours.
The Board approved a credit card with a $3,000 limit for the Lake Delhi recreational facility and water quality district board of trustees.
The Board approved an alarm monitoring agreement with HITECH Communications for panic buttons and fire alarms in several buildings at the same rate they were paying before: a service cost of $360 per year with $75 an hour for technicians during regular office hours and $125 an hour for technicians outside of office hours.