July 31, 2023 at 10:52 a.m.
North Branch will not get funds for culvert blowout
When is a culvert under a city street part of a public ditch system, and when is it part of city infrastructure? This was the quandary at the heart of a quest by the City of North Branch for $78,000 from the Chisago County Ditch Authority.
North Branch City Administrator Renae Fry and Public Works Director Shawn Williams presented their case July 19 that the county ought to contribute to the repairs and culvert replacement needed on Maple Street. Heavy spring rains washed out a culvert that conveys Public Ditch #7 through town and empties into the Sunrise River soon after the ditch exits the golf course.
Fry explained the shared cost of getting the road open could be more like the $32,000 which was what it cost to replace strictly the culvert. The city is willing to delete the sidewalk, rip-rap, road base repairs, paving, etc.
County Administrator Chase Burnham cautioned the County Ditch Authority members ( the five county commissioners) that there’s only about $29,000 in the entire Ditch 7 account. Staff said the Ditch Authority can’t spend more than what is in this ditch’s account.
There are also costs looming to pay for a process the county is in the middle of called “redetermination of benefits” Burnham had hoped the ditch account would maintain a balance capable of supporting those expenses. Redetermination entails experts doing field surveys of the hydrology of a ditch, providing notices to affected property owners, holding hearings and all the supporting materials.
Commissioner Ben Montzka remarked that he sees this as a road repair and laws don’t allow spending ditch revenues for this.
Commissioner Rick Greene agreed and stated that if they go along with this, “...we’ll be asked to pay for every (ditch inclusive) culvert in the county.”
North Branch’s County Commissioner Jim Swenson added the city is just asking for some help, the county ditch authority doesn’t have to foot the whole cost of the whole project.
Commissioner Marlys Dunne floated a motion authorizing $15,000 for North Branch but it failed with only Dunne and Swenson in support. With no successive motions made and nothing on the agenda, the Ditch Authority adjourned into the regular County Board session.