The future of Dresbach could hinge on a sewer pipe.
Dresbach Township board chairman Pat Burns pleaded with the La Crescent City Council on Monday for permission to connect to the city’s sewer system.
The township does not have a sewer system of its own but its board has tentative plans to build one that could be connected to a La Crescent sewer pipe, which runs across the river to a La Crosse treatment plant.
But the La Crescent City Council reaffirmed at Monday’s meeting that it won’t allow Dresbach to connect to its pipe unless the city first annexes the properties that would gain sewer services.
Burns said he feared that allowing part of Dresbach to be annexed would eat away at the township’s tax base. He also said annexation would cause a loss of identity and could eventually lead to all or most of the township being subsumed by La Crescent.
At issue are a little over 60 properties that are part of a “subordinate service district.” The properties have individual septic systems, many of which fall foul of state rules designed to prevent groundwater pollution.
Burns said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency wants Dresbach to find a solution to the problem, which means either building its own wastewater treatment plant, or connecting to La Crescent’s system.
But after making his case to La Crescent City Council Monday, the council voted to reaffirm a previous resolution that states that city services will only be offered to properties that accept annexation. The vote was unanimous.
La Crescent’s city administrator Bill Waller said the issue for the city was that it needed additional capacity in the sewer system for future growth of its own residents. By taking on wastewater from Dresbach residents, it would reduce capacity for the growth of the city.
La Crescent Council member Dale Williams said his own property had been annexed by the city some years ago. Initially, he said he’d been opposed to annexation but in the end it had worked out well.
Some property owners fear annexation could result in higher taxes. However, Dresbach residents without a sewer system also must worry about the impact on property values and the difficulty it presents if they choose to sell their home.
Williams urged the Dresbach town board to talk to their community to try and get a clear picture on what direction they want to take.
But without knowing exactly how much either building its own wastewater treatment plant or connect to the city sewer would cost, it’s difficult for people to decide, said Dresbach’s treasurer Kim Low.
Connecting to the city’s sewer pipe would be expensive, noted La Crescent Mayor Mike Poellinger, although the township did offer to cover that costs. However, the offer to pay for the cost failed to change the minds of La Crescent’s council members.