The Silver Bay 2018 sanitary sewer improvement project continues to move ahead, despite some disagreement among City Council members about whether to accept an easement agreement with Northshore Mining.
The entire sewer improvement project is slated to cost $1.3 million and set to begin construction in late summer or early fall.
Part of the sewer improvement project includes the replacement of approximately a half-mile of the main flow sewer pipe to the wastewater treatment plant, also known as the sewer trunkline.
This portion of pipe runs along the hillside from the city along the northwest side of Water Plant Road and crosses East Lakeview Drive along Industrial Park Road. It's the main pipe that carries wastewater from the city.
A small portion of the new route for the main trunk line will cross Northshore Mining property. The old route also crossed the property, but the change is significant enough to prompt the City of Silver Bay to seek a new easement agreement with the company.
City-contracted engineer Joe Rhein, of Bolton and Menk, updated the council on the status of the easement agreement pursued for the project. The company and city had come to terms on an access agreement to allow the construction and a quit-claim deed, which allows the former easement to be released.
However, Rhein brought up two clauses of the easement agreement to the councilors' attention — one regarding the removal of the old pipe and one focused on Northshore Mining retaining sole discretion over the land.
Old pipe removal
Rhein said the original agreement Northshore Mining proposed wanted the city to physically remove all of the old pipe within two years of the project and bear the cost of the entire extraction.
"In the plan, we only have to physically remove about half of the pipe to install the new main. The other half we don’t need to take it out so we plan to cap it and abandon it in place," Rhein said. "It’s a cost savings to the city to not have to physically remove all that pipe."
After some debate between the city and Northshore Mining, the company agreed to a compromise to allow the pipe to remain. If the pipe ever has to be removed, however, the city will have two years to comply and pay for the removal.
Rhein roughly estimates that removal to be about $30,000.
Northshore seeks sole discretion
The second issue with the easement agreement is a clause that allows the company to have sole discretion to require the city to relocate the pipe at any point in the future if they need the easement area for the business.
"So they can at any time they chose decide we need to move the trunk sewer and require us to move it. And it would be 100% at city cost," Rhein said.
Although Rhien said he asked the company to either remove or rephrase the clause, Northshore Mining declined.
"That’s such an investment to leave it hanging on those kind of terms," Mayor Scott Johnson said.
Rhein was quick to point out that the company had been agreeable on many of the other issues in the easement.
"The mining company did point out that they are providing the easements at no cost to the city," Rhein said. "And the new permanent easement they’re providing is three times the width of the existing easement and they’re not charging any cost for the access agreement."
Councilors Shane Hoff and Dustin Goutermont agreed they didn't have a problem with the agreement, as development on that area of the property is unlikely.
"Anyone who would make the city do something like that would not be very good neighbors and they wouldn’t be very highly looked upon by the people," Hoff said. "So I highly doubt they’ll make us do that."
Councilor Richard DeRosier pointed out the recent Minnesota Department of Transportation relocation of Minnesota Highway 53 near Virginia over an easement agreement issue, but ultimately deferred to his colleagues' knowledge of the mining company.
The agreement was approved with a vote of 4-1, with Johnson voting in the dissent. He stated he would have "liked to see some more time to see if we can get a better deal."
"We have to do the project and I don’t like that by the stroke of some pen out in Cleveland, we’re out millions of bucks," Johnson said. "I think we owe it to ourselves to be a little more diligent."