The future of the joint water treatment partnership between Le Sueur and Henderson is still on the negotiating table.
The Le Sueur City Council met behind closed doors Aug. 12 to discuss details involved in the potential dissolution of the Minnesota River Valley Public Utilities Commission (MRVPUC). The council told city administration that that the city has no interest in owning the city’s joint wastewater collection system force main with Henderson unless the city can find a way to recuperate maintenance costs.
The facility, located downstream of the lift station on Henderson Station Road, provides its services to Henderson. Le Sueur Councilor Marvin Sullivan said it wouldn’t be in the city’s interest to continue to have ownership of the lift station.
“It wouldn’t have public purpose,” said Sullivan. “The lift station has no services that go through the city of Le Sueur.”
Ownership of the facility is one of the cruxes of the current negotiations between the cities of Le Sueur and Henderson. The MRVPUC has been a source of tension between the cities of Le Sueur and Henderson in recent years. This has forced the cities to pursue either a renegotiation of the joint powers agreement that set up the commission or complete termination of the commission.
“The Public Utilities Commission hasn’t been able to function like it’s supposed to,” said Le Sueur Councilor John Favolise. “It was going to be a larger joint enterprise, but it hasn’t grown beyond its original concept.”
The Commission was started in 2005 as a two-way joint powers agreement between Le Sueur and Henderson, with Agropur acting as a non-voting ex-oficio member of the commission. Rising wastewater treatment costs and disagreements on the roles of Le Sueur and Henderson have spurred negotiations for a potential dismantling of the commission.
Consideration to renegotiate or dissolve the joint powers agreement began in the spring of last year over disagreements between the distribution of cost and authority over the MRVPUC.
Le Sueur holds a larger financial stake in the joint powers agreement. The city of Henderson pays $3.7 million, about 18.5%, of the $20 million loan the cities took on to build the facilities. In addition, 1.4 of the 1.8 million gallons of water that comes through the plant are from Le Sueur.
However, control of the MRVPUC is equally distributed between the two cities, with three councillors from each city on the board. Currently, Le Sueur councillors John Favolise, Mark Huntington and Marvin Sullivan serve on the board while Robyn Geldner, Randy Tiegs and Jim Wartmann represent Henderson.
Another issue that has arisen between the cities is the rising costs of the facilities. In late 2018, Le Sueur approved a land purchase amounting to nearly $200,000 to expand its wastewater plant south with the expectation that the expense would be reimbursed with MRVPUC funds. Henderson officials, however, balked at the cost which added onto the $650,000 the MRVPUC was spending on infrastructure and repairs. The reimbursement was finalized in February through a 3-2 vote.
City Administrator Jasper Kruggel said that he has not yet heard an official response from Henderson to Le Sueur’s proposal to relinquish ownership of the Henderson plant.
“I haven’t heard anything officially, but from what I’ve heard from some people over there, they appear receptive to the offer,” said Kruggel.
At this point, the two cities are still continuing negotiations.
“We’re going to continue to work together to come up with a solution,” said Kruggel. “I’m hoping we can come to a basic agreement on getting this to work.”