Can you put a price on clean water? St. Boni says yes, and it's too high

By Emily Hedges

The St. Boni City Council began its July 18 regular meeting with the pledge of allegiance led by a local Boy Scout Troop in attendance for an informal civic duty discussion. Soon after, the boys got a lesson in how the council feels about state regulations regarding stormwater management and a new permit that could cost cities a bundle.

City Engineer Jake Saulsbury presented the council with an overview on costs many Minnesota cities will pay to make sure the Mississippi River stays clean, costs he and the city council believe are unreasonable and underfunded.

Saulsbury explained that cities contribute 5.8 percent of the pollution and are asked to reduce 1.5 percent at a cost of $850 million. Because the SPCA can only go after permitted bodies to decrease pollutants, Saulsbury expressed the belief that cities are being unfairly burdened.

"Our major gripe is based on the math. We question the financial sense," he said.

He pointed out that the funding source for the project, the state’s 2008 Clean Water Legacy, only offers $5.1 million total in grant money to help cities meet their pollution reduction.

"At this rate, it would take 330 years to achieve the goals. There is a heavy financial burden to do it," he said.

St. Boni Mayor Rick Weible offered the Boy Scouts a frame of reference to understand the sort of numbers that are being discussed.

"Our total levy in St. Boni is below a million dollars," said Weible.

Saulsbury explained that residents wouldn’t see a new tax from the state. Rather, it would go to the city council to collect through property taxes.

The council voted to add St. Boni to a letter being submitted by Bolton & Menk to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency expressing their concerns with the new permit.

In other business, the council: