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WMO dissolution could mean fairer billing

Some residents' wallets may welcome the likely dissolution of the Lower St. Croix Water Management Organization within a few months.

That was the message which came out of a presentation at Afton City Council's Sept. 16 meeting, by Tim Power, Afton's representative to the LSCWMO, who explained the organization was looking to merge with the Valley Branch Watershed District.

Power added there was currently a certain amount of inequity in billing among the residents of Afton, Denmark Township and Cottage Grove, whose properties were located in the LSCWMO's boundaries.

For example, he pointed out, in 2007 Afton residents paid $11.15 per person for the water management organization. In Denmark Township, that figure came out at $27.57.

"Well, that must mean you are getting a real bargain [in Afton]," said Power. "[However,] what it actually means is that the one-third of Afton that is within the LSCWMO is getting subsidized by the other two-thirds of Afton, which is within the Valley Branch Watershed District."

He explained that because the city of Afton spread the WMO cost among all residents, citizens who lived in the Valley Branch coverage area were actually paying twice over.

Only residents living within the Valley Branch Watershed District are charged for the cost of that service, a figure which is added directly on to citizens' property tax bills.

Power said the LSCWMO is working on a six- to 18-month timetable to merge with and be absorbed into Valley Branch Watershed District, if staff on the Valley Branch side of the operation proved to be in favor.

"In my opinion, this is a very significant happening that we are looking at in this case," he added.

According to Power, the main goals of the LSCWMO in the last five years have been conducting studies of the three main sub-watersheds within the district, developing a set of rules governing standards in the area, and monitoring the quantity and quality of water in the three major streams and one lake of the WMO.

For some time, Power said, he had been searching in his own mind for the next step in a series of improvements to the continuing operation of the LSCWMO.

"I'm slowing coming to the conclusion that perhaps merging into Valley Branch would be better than remaining an independent organization," he continued.

"We will be having administrative costs as long as we continue to exist and if we merge into another organization, we will be seeing a reduction in those costs."

n Watershed districts are organized by the county, whereas water management organizations are formed through joint powers agreements between city governments.

They are funded differently: watersheds costs are billed directly to residents living within the qualifying area through an ad valorem tax, based on the value of a resident's property, while water management organizations are funded out of the city's general budget.


• Covers areas of Afton, Denmark Township and Cottage Grove.

• Of Afton's 2,839 residents, 1,279 live within the LSCWMO boundary, making up 40.1 percent of the population served.

• However, the WMO costs in Afton are spread across the city (paid for by 100 percent of the residents), working out at a per-household cost of $33.28 this year.

• 100 percent of Denmark Township's population of 1,348 lives within the LSCWMO district, comprising 42.3 percent of the WMO population.

• The Denmark Township cost per household for the WMO worked out at $116.38 this year.

• In Cottage Grove, just 561 residents live within the LSCWMO district, equating to 17.6 percent of the total population.

• The per-household cost for Cottage Grove this year was $62.