November 12, 2009 at 9:01 a.m.

Joint meeting brings up new details

Joint meeting brings up new details
Joint meeting brings up new details

The ongoing battle for the LS Power Plant in Lent Township had yet another chapter written as the Lent Town Board and the Lent Planning and Zoning Commission held a joint meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.

The meeting was meant to discuss the power plant and the related development agreement. The first presenter was Assistant County Assessor Patrick Poshek, who was there to discuss any impact the power plant may or may not have on property value around the plant.

Poshek said that in a discussion with the assessors from Monticello and Becker, which both house large power plants within their cities, he said they didn't see any negative impact on values.

Poshek also noted that the effect of estimated property tax from the power plant, which is roughly 10 percent of a $500,000,000 project, would result in a $110 reduction in tax on a $150,000 home in the area.

Lent Township taxes could see a 22 percent decrease from roughly $335.34 to $261.41. The North Branch School District could see a 5.3 percent decrease from $427.20 to $404.48 and Chisago County overall levy a 1.8 percent decrease from $806.32 to $792.12.

Poshek said that those numbers could change based on many factors, including the market and the economy, but as of now, those numbers are based on a $150,000 home in the area.

There were concerns from the audience, however, that not enough research was being done on the actual impact on property value around the power plant, and Poshek said it's really tough to tell for sure until after the fact. But, Sunrise Township resident Rob Kravitz said, "We can't wait to see what happens until after it's built. That's just burying our head in the sand."

Ken Herbst, of US Water Services in Cambridge, went into more detail about the cooling water management. After a quick Water Treatment 101, Herbst moved on to explain that through zero liquid discharge treatment of spent water, up to 2.6 million pounds a year of solids might be filtered out, and not discharged to the environment.

While he explained that the process was much more thorough than usual wastewater treatment processes, audience members questioned if it was merely making the cooling water residue somebody else's problem.

Herbst noted rigorous procedures regulate handling the residues, and that they weren't simply passing the buck to another city, county or state.

One of the other major concerns about the plant expressed by the audience this week was where workers would come from for the two-year construction project.

Harry Melander, President of the St. Paul Trades Council, was in attendance and made an impromptu speech, assuring that a bulk of the workers on the project would come from the area. "I can't guarantee that every single hand will be a Chisago County resident," he said. "But, folks available to work will have a chance. I can assure you that local hands will work on this project."

Melander noted that he worked with LS Power in constructing a power plant in Cottage Grove, and he said they have a great record working with the community.

Perhaps the most controversial speaker of the night was Senator Rick Olseen. In his support of the LS Power Plant, Olseen outlined several concerns that residents had.

Addressing concerns about the proximity of the plant to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, Olseen said, "If you don't think the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency won't take care of our Minnesota, we have a bigger problem than LS Power."

Sen. Olseen was met with hearty displeasure when he surmised that the power plant isn't much different than the sub-station in place next to the proposed site of the LS Power plant. Most in attendance grumbled loudly at this statement and noted the newly proposed 175-foot stacks (they were originally proposed at 199 feet) as one of the major differences.

One onlooker was stunned, "The sub-station is not a power plant!" she said angrily.

With that, the meeting was adjourned.

The Lent Town Board is seeking public input on the proposed power plant development agreement. Mail or e-mail ideas for this to the town clerk. Concerns will be reviewed and may be incorporated into the final product. Residents may submit ideas until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

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