Watershed tax district up for hearing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2001

Freeborn County residents want clean water, and next month their elected officials will decide who will pay for it.

Thursday, May 03, 2001

Freeborn County residents want clean water, and next month their elected officials will decide who will pay for it.

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The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the Shell Rock River watershed special taxing district on June 5.

The taxing district would include everyone in the Shell Rock River Watershed, according to the Environmental Services staff recommendation.

The district will affect people in some sections of the following townships: Albert Lea, Freeman, Hayward, Nunda, Pickerel Lake, Alden, Carlston, Manchester, Hartland, Bath, Bancroft, Riceland, Oakland, and Shellrock. Residents of Albert Lea, Glenville, Hayward, Manchester, Twin Lakes and some of Clarks Grove would also be included in the district.

Maps of parcels included in the proposed district are available at the Environmental Services department offices in the Freeborn County courthouse.

The county has not yet levied a tax for watershed work, and could decide not to, but must establish the district to comply with the Shell Rock River Watershed District abeyance agreement signed with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) last year, said Environmental Services Director Randy Tuchtenhagen.

The taxing district has been a major point of conflict among board members since the process began, but will have to be passed June 5, or Freeborn County will violate the abeyance agreement, Tuchtenhagen said. Some residents at the south end of the district feel it’s unfair to pay to clean water they didn’t dirty. But they also benefit from clean water, and including everyone in the watershed in the taxing district is fair, Tuchtenhagen said.

&uot;We all pay taxes to improve our roads, even though we don’t all drive on all the roads,&uot; he said.

The board will not have much time to revamp the proposed district: because of legal notification laws, they are already stretching past the June 1 deadline to establish the district.

&uot;They’re going to have to do it, or they are going to have a watershed district,&uot; he said.

BWSR approved the extension, Tuchtenhagen said.

Tuchtenhagen does expect some flack from taxpayers who don’t want to pay to clean up the Shell Rock River watershed, but feels confident more information will change opponents’ minds on the issue. He encourages people with concerns to call his office before the public hearing.