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Tyler makes $7.2M bonding request for sewer expansion

City official found ‘geyser of sewage’ in basement

Photo by Deb Gau Presenters from the city of Tyler, including City Administrator Stephanie LaBrune (at far right), made a request for $7.29 million in bonding dollars, for a sanitary sewer reconstruction in Tyler. The city’s current sewer mains are undersized, and back up in rainy conditions, city representatives said.

MARSHALL — It’s been a dry year — but that’s a relief to Tyler residents, city officials said. When there are heavy rains, the result on the Tyler’s sewer system is destructive.

Speaking to members of the Minnesota Legislature on Tuesday, Tyler Mayor Joan Jagt recalled the spring four years ago when she found “a geyser of sewage” in her basement.

“Everything not stored in plastic containers was destroyed,” Jagt said.

The backups kept happening, to the point where she had to wear waders if she went into the basement.

“In one month, my basement was flooded with sewage four times,” she said.

Jagt and other representatives of the city of Tyler were asking for state bonding dollars to help reconstruct their sanitary sewer mains.

“This is not a want. It is a need,” Jagt said.

Tyler city officials made a bonding request of $7.29 million to the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee on Tuesday.

The sanitary sewer system in Tyler is “just flat-out undersized,” said Owen Todd of engineering firm Bolton & Menk. During rain events, sewage backs up into homes, and millions of gallons of sewage ends up having to be discharged into the city storm sewers.

Not having needed sewer infrastructure also hurts Tyler’s ability to grow, said City Administrator Stephanie LaBrune.

Todd said Tyler is proposing to replace about 2.3 miles of its sanitary sewer main, running along Oak Street and areas near Lincoln County Road 8 in Tyler. Besides increasing the sewer system’s capacity, the project would also allow for future housing and commercial development in Tyler.

The sewer project has been a long time in the making.

“We’ve been working on and off with the city for six to eight years,” Todd said.

However, cost is a significant challenge to the project, said Todd and Shannon Sweeney, a financial adviser working with the city of Tyler. The cost of concrete and PVC pipes needed for the reconstruction have gone up, Todd said.

Sweeney said the city already has high debt levels after some needed street and utility reconstructions, and without state funding, the sewer expansion will be difficult to manage.

In 2011, Tyler obtained a $4.95 million Minnesota Public Facilities Authority loan to help reconstruct significant portions of its city water system. City officials said the PFA loan still has a balance of nearly $3.6 million, and won’t be paid off until 2040. When the impact of the PFA loan is added to other city obligations for utility and street projects, Tyler has a debt of nearly $4,800 per capita.

If Tyler had to borrow money to fund the sewer construction on its own, it would mean unrealistic increases in sanitary sewer rates, and would add more than $5,000 to the per-capita debt, Tyler officials said.

Tyler is planning to implement new sanitary sewer rates in 2022, so the city is doing its part, Sweeney said. But the city was asking for a total of $7.292 million — the estimated cost of the reconstruction project — in state bonding dollars to make the sewer work possible.

Rep. Fue Lee, chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee, said Tyler wasn’t alone in requesting funding for infrastructure needs in 2022. Water infrastructure is a key need for many Minnesota cities, Lee said.

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