Tentative agreement reached in Lansing Township dispute

Published 7:02 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

A tentative agreement has been reached in the dispute over sanitary sewer and water issues in a portion of Lansing Township.

An 11-hour mediation hearing was held Tuesday at Riverland Community College before an administrative law judge for municipal boundary adjustments.

The parties met separately with the judge to argue their cases.

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The residents of the Woodhaven residential subdivision on the east and south banks of the Cedar River north of Austin have been at odds with the Lansing Township Board over how to handle sanitary sewer problems.

Straight pipe discharges into the Cedar River from Woodhaven residences were verified a year ago when the Izaak Walton League Chapter No. 10 observed and recorded the discharges.

The township board believes it has a plan for solve the problem by connecting to a sanitary sewer system of its own.

Woodhaven residents believe the problem could be solved by connecting to the city of Austin’s sanitary sewer system after annexation of the subdivision.

In the midst of the controversy, Lansing Township residents learned earlier this month township officials met with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reversed its decision to fine the guilty parties $500 per month for the straight pipe discharges. According to the MPCA, the threats of fines were withdrawn while the township and its residents pursue another course of action.

Details of the tentative agreement reached Tuesday after the marathon mediation hearing are unknown.

Dan Franklin, a Woodhaven resident who led the petition drive for a mediation hearing, declined comment.

Steve Persinger, chairman of the Lansing Township Board, said details of the agreement must first be shared with the governing bodies — the township and the city of Austin — before they can be considered acceptable to all.

Persinger anticipated that decision would come at regular meetings of the township board and Austin City Council in August.

“There was give and take on all sides,” was Persinger’s only comment about Tuesday’s hearing.

Some observers remain unconvinced the city can deliver on what it has offered Woodhaven residents or at what price.

Lansing Township has embarked on an ambitious program to extend sanitary sewer and water services to its residents, starting with the largest populations centers.

If the agreement negotiated by the administrative law judge is approved by the township and the city, annexation would cause upheaval on the township board. Residents in the area anticipated to be annexed include township board members Persinger, Lee Hansen and Kelly Olson as well as township clerk Bev Nordby and township treasurer Deb Schuster.

The township board members could not vote on an issue — annexation — impacting their own properties and would have to abstain from the voting or resign from the township board.