Edina Water Treatment Plant Location

Edina Water Treatment Plant Location

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Tony Notermann started this petition to Edina City Council

A plan to build a water treatment plant in Edina’s Prospect Knolls neighborhood is on hold after neighbors to the would-be facility weighed in on the discussion.

The idea to build the facility in the affluent neighborhood came about late last year after a study of the city’s water supply identified an open space on Dublin Road as a more desirable location than the previously preferred site under the water tower in the Southdale area.

The Edina City Council on Feb. 5 approved a $983,000 contract for engineering services at the Dublin Road site, which already is home to a 4-million-gallon underground water reservoir. But at the council’s ensuing Feb. 20 meeting, Prospect Knolls residents were prepared to voice their displeasure over the decision, concerned over the facility’s effect on property values and the loss of a de facto park. Their pleas would not be necessary.

“I wanted to let you all know that we’re pushing the pause button on this siting of a potential water treatment plant,” Mayor Jim Hovland told the assembled residents, some of whom were planning to speak their mind during the meeting’s regular public comment period.

Hovland’s declaration caused Rhonda Bland, one of those prepared to offer their criticism, to divert from her planned remarks.

“What I’m going to say is thank you,” she said instead.

Bland presented a petition against the chosen site that she said had been signed by 70 residents over the course of the previous three days, a period during which “the neighborhood has become very concerned about the situation,” Bland said.

Aside from decrying the loss of the open space, another Prospect Hills resident used the Feb. 5 meeting to lament how quickly the new plans developed, arguing that the decision lacked public involvement. Hovland, too, questioned the depth of the public-involvement process during the Feb. 5 meeting, although he ultimately voted to approve the contract for engineering services at the Dublin Road site.

“We’re going to regroup, and we’re going to step back,” he said on Feb. 20, “and we’re going to start over again and start it the way we normally do in Edina and include everybody in the conversation.”

Edina Engineering Services Manager Ross Bintner noted that four sites had been considered for a new water plant before city staff zeroed in on the Dublin Road location. In addition to the location adjacent to the Southdale water tower, the city explored Yorktown Park, the former Fred Richards Golf Course and a spot near the 69th Street and France Avenue intersection.

It is yet to be determined whether city staff members will re-examine the previously considered sites or find new locations to consider, Bintner told the Sun Current. He estimated that $5,000 worth of services associated with the engineering contract had already been rendered. Based on the contract’s terms, the city is not liable to make additional payments beyond those for the services already performed, Bintner said.

“When we heard the mayor say we were going to push the pause button on that, we just told all of our consultants to stop working,” he said. “ … If we’re going to stop, now’s a good time.”

The signatures of those opposing the Dublin Road site didn’t just come from the Prospect Knolls neighborhood, according to Bland. “The discussion went beyond our neighborhood,” she said.

Hovland interpreted the broad nature of the concern as angst over the question, “Are we next for a water treatment plant?”

From conception to completion, it takes about three years for a water treatment plant to materialize, Bintner said. Construction at the Dublin Road site would have begun late this year, he added. “This will definitely put that off by at least six months,” he said.

“Let’s take our time. Nothing’s pressing on this issue,” Hovland urged.

Aside from attending city council meetings, residents made their objections clear on the city’s public-engagement website, Better Together Edina.

“Does it make Common Sense to construct a water treatment plant in the middle of a high end residential neighborhood?” asked on conversation participant.

“This will end up in court if the city selects this site,” another commenter promised.

The selection of a site for a new water treatment plant is a question of what’s in the interests of the common good, Hovland said, “but getting to where the answer is, is not always so simple.”

“ … I think we want to figure out a way to engage the broader community in this discussion about making our water as potable as it can be, as clean as can it can be, and serving as many in the community as possible.”

– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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