The book has closed on Le Sueur County’s German Jefferson Sewer Subordinate Service District, as residents voted to dissolve it.
Le Sueur County counted up the votes from the mail-in election on April 10, and found that the voters overwhelmingly chose to get rid of the district, 277-36.
More than 300 area residents sent in their votes.
County Commissioner Steve Rohlfing said he isn’t glad to see it go, but recognizes that the process worked out. A petition to hold the election was presented and the people cast their votes.
“Sometimes you try and do things right and it doesn’t go well,” he said.
Pettis said the dissolution of the district has two significant consequences, though both essentially mean they are regulated the same as the rest of the county.
First, the properties are no longer subject to “continual compliance,” for their septic tanks. While properties must still come into compliance with state rules, they won’t be checked every three years.
County Administrator Darrell Pettis said the residents of the former district will also not be able to sign up for grants that could fund projects in the future.
“If the residents who are in the district that was dissolved want to do something cooperatively, that opportunity is no longer there,” Pettis said.
In 2013, the county carried out an inventory on the qualities of the septic systems around the German-Jefferson chain of lakes.
That inventory found that many of the systems on various properties nearby were out of complaints with Minnesota Pollution Control regulations.
Initially, there had been a plan to update the septic situation by connecting a sewer line to St. Peter. While this may have worked, residents argued that it would be too expensive. Instead, they elected to strike out on their own in 2015 after a tense meeting in Le Center.
Later, a section of local property owners, unhappy with the need to set up their own system, went back to the county and worked with the board to create a West Jefferson service district.
That district officially agreed to a contract that will allow the county to build a smaller sewer line from the lakes to the city of Cleveland.
However, the service wasn’t available to anyone who might be interested. The district and city agreed that there would only be room for 140 places on the line. By the time petitions to enter the district closed, about 120 properties had been signed up to get a sewer connection.
Some members of the original district took issue with not being able to sign on to the sewer or a variety of other reasons, including concerns that they weren’t being treated fairly.
A petition, which had been signed years prior, was first turned into the county board at a September meeting. While that attempt to use the petition was unsuccessful, more support was gathered and the election was put underway.
Dissolving the district does not excuse property owners from the requirement to update their systems.
The district will be officially dissolved after the county wraps up finances. Pettis said the district was running at a profit, but they will need to figure out how much is left over when revenues and expenses are accounted for. He said the amount would come in at less than $20,000.
Rohfling said that while he isn’t happy to see the district dissolved, he is happy that many of the property owners have followed through on their septic system updates.
To date, Rohfling said there are only a handful of properties that aren’t in compliance but they are working on getting everything set straight.
“The bottom line is they did what we asked over all,” he said.