Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Natascha Watercott
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Willow River Dam replacement delayed


October 18, 2018

At the October 1 Willow River City Council meeting, Mayor Brent Switzer reported that construction on the Willow River Dam replacement project has been delayed. Construction was originally slated for winter 2018, but the current schedule now has construction starting around August 2019. The dam was damaged during a large flooding event in the summer of 2016.

According to the letter Mayor Switzer received from Jason Boyle, state dam safety engineer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), “The change in schedule is primarily due to the coordination needed between the design of the rock arch rapids spillway and the County 61 stream crossing design. The design of the County 61 crossing could affect the design of the rock arch rapids, and in turn, the design of the rock arch rapids could affect the design of the County 61 crossing.

We need to ensure that both the design of the rock arch rapids spillway and the design of the Co. 61 stream crossing are informed by the best available information regarding the peak flood flow for the 100 year (1 percent chance) flood event. DNR is developing hydrologic and hydraulic models using the latest data and information and should have those models completed in October.”

“They’ve had two different problems with the two designs, and they need until the end of October to come up with something better, but that’s also going to delay everything back out,” explained Switzer. “We were hoping they would start this winter, but it looks like we have to wait another year.”

Councilor Vickie Whitehouse gave a brief update on the city’s sewer pond project, noting that it is very near completion. She stated that the water balance test was completed last Friday and they are hoping to keep working as long as the weather holds up. Ideally, they are hoping to hit their completion date of October 30. The sewer ponds had also been damaged from flooding in 2016.

Annual festival

needs organizer

The council received a letter from the Willow River Commercial Club stating they will no longer be organizing or supervising Willow River Days after 2018.

According to the letter, as of the February 2, 2018 Commercial Club meeting, “a motion was made and approved to discontinue the Willow River Commercial Club’s role as organizer and supervisor of Willow River Days. This is to be effective after the 2018 Willow River Days celebration. By giving this notice now, it will give the City of Willow River time to make decisions and plan future events. We will continue, as we have in the past, and whenever possible, to support activities which promote Willow River and our community.”

Commercial Club member Dave Prachar, who was present at the meeting, explained the Commercial Club’s reasoning. “We’ve got declining membership, declining funds, the insurance costs are high; that’s pretty much what it boils down to,” he stated.

Mayor Switzer thanked the Commercial Club for hosting the event for over 30 years. Council members noted they will need to find a new sponsor/organization to help organize and supervise Willow River Days if they want to keep the event going in the future.

Security cameras considered

City Clerk/Treasurer Diane Nelson asked if the council would consider purchasing security cameras for the city hall building for safety reasons. “There haven’t been many, but a few strange people coming and going,” said Nelson. “If something ever does happen, vandalism or to Kathy and I, there would be some recording.” She added that she had already done research and found they could get several cameras for about $170.

Councilor Sheldon Johnson noted they could also use the cameras to keep an eye on the fire department as well, specifically the dumpster as people sometimes throw their own trash into it. Nelson explained that there may be grants for surveillance systems for fire departments and that she would look into it. The council agreed to investigate possible grants first and consider voting on purchasing a surveillance system at next month’s meeting.


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