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St. Louis County will survey Sand Lake property owners on sewer district

St. Louis County commissioners heard an earful Tuesday on a proposal to form a new sewage district for property owners on Sand Lake north of Virginia.

Dozens of people packed the Cherry Town Hall for the public hearing on how the board should proceed.

After several hours of public testimony, a county board resolution that would have advanced the sewer district idea on to a state administrative law judge to decide failed on a 5-2 vote, with most commissioners not convinced that most cabin and homeowners on the lake wanted the new district.

A second resolution that calls for county Environmental Services Department staff to survey property owners passed on a 4-3 vote.

Several property owners on the lake say they are concerned with diminished water quality, especially rapidly expanding weed problems. They want to form the sewer district to tax property owners and build a sewage collection system for cabins and homes on the lake rather than the current system of individual septic systems, several of which are reportedly failing to adequately treat sewage.

One option would be to pump the sewage about 15 miles south to the Virginia municipal treatment plant.

But critics say a combined sewage system could be too expensive for some seasonal cabin owners to afford. They also say that the lake's water quality issues haven't been properly studied to determine the actual causes.

Scholarship plan advances

A plan to spend part of the county's annual mineral royalties on scholarships for two-year colleges advanced at the board meeting Tuesday.

The plan, by Commissioner Tom Rukavina, would offer $150,000 annually to St. Louis County residents who attend a two-year public college within the county. The money comes from about $1 million in royalties paid by mining companies that dig on county land.

The resolution advanced through the Committee of the Whole without opposition and is expected to receive final approval by the board on Dec. 12 in Duluth.