Dam proposal had ‘parking lot to nowhere’

Published 8:28 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

I am an Albert Lea lakeshore owner and have watched with interest the developments or lack thereof in the progress made since the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s inception. When the watershed board was initially formed, I was of the opinion that this was a move in the right direction to facilitate and unite everyone behind a common objective.

In the last several years the frustration level from the public has become evident from lack of any constructive visual improvements. What the watershed board has mastered is the art of spending our taxpayer money. It is my opinion this is why the ridiculous and grandiose plan of a new dam incorporated with a bridge complete with a couple of fishing piers and let’s throw in a parking lot while were at it was hatched by the watershed board. It was something visual the board could point to and say we have done something with the tax money you entrusted us with.

The watershed board supported the boondoggle over the Albert Lea Lake dam on a 4-3 vote, and it was passed. The only problem was this plan needed to initiate an eminent domain provision and take land from a private property owner. Thank goodness the county commissioners saw this as a “parking lot to nowhere” and voted it down.

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The county board has taken serious heat in public opinion for expensive programs in the past that they have voted for, and they should now be congratulated for this vote in saving the taxpayer money.

For the record it was County Commissioners Dan Belshan, Jim Nelson and Glen Mathiason who voted the plan down. In these times the county can’t afford to spend $2.2 million on a plan that’s loaded with something for the very few in the way of earmarks. This watershed board plan if passed was also loaded with future legal issues and costs that would have tied up any action on the dam for years to come while the dam is leaking and our lake is running dry.

What is really outrageous are the actions and comments from the watershed board member Clayton Peterson. It seems he thinks the way to run a board is through public smears and intimidation. He initiated and supported a plan that required the taking of private property from an individual without regard to what is legal, not to mention what is morally right. When he was called on it and voted down by the county commissioners, he chose to go on a smear campaign and blame the landowner. He chose to blame another for his own incompetence.

As a taxpayer, I find it reprehensible he chose this route instead of sitting down with the landowner as the county board is now doing and work out something everyone can live with. Imagine that, finger pointing and the blame game right here in Freeborn County, taken out of the U.S. Congress playbook. In Clayton Peterson’s last editorial he even has the audacity to blame the landowner for the money spent by the watershed board that he himself authorized on the engineering plans of this parking lot to nowhere.

Mr. Clayton Peterson goes to great lengths to explain how smart and educated he is. How is it that a man this smart squandered our taxpayer money to the tune of $220,000 before he even has the land locked up with a purchase agreement, a letter of intent, a down payment, or even a verbal commitment from the landowner? I think most people have the common sense to figure this one out. I have always believed that a smart and educated man admits to a mistake, learns from the experience and moves on to accomplish the objective. With mistakes of this dollar magnitude and Mr. Clayton Peterson’s total lack of accepting any responsibility whatsoever in this mess can we really afford to leave him in this position unchecked?

Steve Wright lives on Albert Lea Lake on 180th Street.