Afton rejects joint powers proposal
Earlier this year, Afton CIty Council drew the ire of its neighboring communities — Lake St. Croix Beach and St. Mary's Point — over the city's future cluster septic system.
However, the two communities shared a change in heart earlier this month.
The cities presented a joint powers agreement to Afton City Council during a special meeting on Aug. 8.
During several public meetings related to the project, residents and officials of Lake St. Croix Beach and St. Mary's Point expressed opposition of the project and concerns over smell and property values.
However, during the Aug. 8 meeting, a different tune was being sung.
In the agreement presented to Afton CIty Council, Lake St. Croix Beach and St. Mary's Point would be allowed first priority to hook up to the system if there should be any excess capacity in the system.
City Administrator Ron Moorse said this element of the joint powers agreement is essentially moot since there will not be any excess capacity.
A second component of the proposed agreement is that any modifications or expansions of the system must be approved by a two-thirds vote.
Afton's City Attorney Fritz Knaak questioned why the city would consider a joint powers agreement.
"If there isn't a plan for an actual joint use," he said, "why do you want to do this?
"There is plenty about the city's responsibilities, but there is no listing of anybody else's."
Knaak also said Lake St. Croix Beach and St. Mary's Point are essentially trying to prevent Afton from doing anything in the future since it would require a super majority.
"They're trying to throw their ropes around the giant to the south, the way they see it, in order to prevent you from doing anything," he said.
Additionally, Knaak said by letting two neighboring communities hook up to the system, it could send a clear message to the Metropolitan Council that Afton is ready for a sewer line.
"We're getting into a murky mist of how things are going to be perceived," he said.
Council Member Randy Nelson said he was disappointed in the actions of the communities as well as the joint powers proposal.
"It seemed pretty disingenuous to approve this," he said, "since their first responses was in opposition."
The cities have indicated that a joint powers agreement will be needed if Afton should want the other cities' support of the project.
"I'm disappointed that our neighbors behaved the way they did," Nelson said. "I think they handled it in the worst way possible and I don't see any advantage to the city."
Council Member Bill Palmquist mirrored Nelson's sentiments adding that he doesn't feel it is appropriate allowing the other communities to connect to the system given that it is being paid for through assessments.
"At the end of the day, that system is owned by (Afton residents)," he said. "I don't think we should be giving away something that is being paid for by others."
In the end, Afton City Council agreed to draft a resolution stating it had no intention of modifying or expanding the system, but if it should all neighboring communities would be notified.
"I know that's not as a strong as they want," Mayor Pat Snyder said.
City Council discussed a resolution during its Aug. 20 meeting after the Bulletin went to press.