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Lake Elmo’s water line supported through state bonding bill
Last week local and state officials celebrated the passage of legislation that will award the city of Lake Elmo $3.5 million in state bonding to build a 2 1/2-mile water main line down Inwood Avenue to the Interstate 94 corridor.
The new water line, set for construction in 2015, will bring clean, potable water from northern Lake Elmo to residents living in the city’s southwest quadrant - an area affected by perfluorochemical (PFC) groundwater contamination.
Several state legislators reached across the aisle in a bipartisan effort that culminated on May 16 when the bill passed through both the House and Senate. The legislation became official on May 20, when Gov. Mark Dayton signed it into law as part of the state’s $1.17 billion bonding bill.
“When it came to clean water, these legislators put their partisan differences aside and worked together to do the right thing,” Mayor Mike Pearson said in a written statement. “In all we had over 70 meetings with legislators and testified in three hearings to stress the importance of this project.”
While there was a myriad of elected officials, city staff, agency officials and private citizens who lobbied to make legislation possible, Sens. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) and Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) led the cause in the Senate and Reps. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) and JoAnn Ward (DFL-Oakdale) commanded efforts in the House.
“I’m so excited about it. We worked really hard to make this happen,” Ward said. “It will be a real benefit to people in town and in the surrounding areas.”
City administrator Dean Zuleger was at the state capitol until the wee hours of the morning when the House passed the legislation, which he called “a real game changer for Lake Elmo.”
“Building a hydrologically functional water system in one swoop is a tough thing to do, but we are going to be able to do that now,” he said. “We are excited about getting clean water in sooner than later.”
Mayor Pearson’s hard work on the project and determination to see it through has been steadfast since November, according to Zuleger. But Pearson noted that it was a team effort.
“Everyone that we asked to help just pitched in right away, including notables like Chef John Schiltz of the Lake Elmo Inn, Ed Gorman of Gorman’s Restaurant, Julie Bunn, Julie Fliflet and Jim Leonard from Fury Motors,” Pearson wrote. “This was really a full team effort that will make our community stronger. In addition, our ability to work with legislators and state agencies may help us to shed our old image of being difficult to work with as a community. In many ways this bonding bill represents a new day for Lake Elmo.”
In a later interview, Pearson added that he would have felt satisfied that all people involved gave it their best effort regardless of the outcome, noting that the process of lobbying for state funds for the project began last fall and continued until last week. He said he was “very pleased” and “relieved” that the project received funding, when so many other projects that also have merit were left out of the bill.
“It was certainly a rollercoaster. At a certain point in time we all felt confident, pessimistic and modestly hopeful,” he said. “In the end we were just fortunate enough to be successful.”
Pearson said the city council would soon advertise for bids for the project on Inwood. A next step, he said, would be coming together as a council to secure funding for a second water main line to be constructed along Lake Elmo Avenue. That line will run from the village water tower to the proposed Fifth Street intersection at Lake Elmo Avenue. The $3.5 million in state funding the city has been awarded will cover nearly 40 percent of the cost of both projects, which will include a new water tower at the corner of Inwood Avenue and 10th Street.
In the meantime, city staff will have to fill out a stack of paper work to access the state funds. Zuleger said he anticipates the Inwood project would begin next spring.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7822.