Frazee residents petitioned the city council for temporary relief of flooding issues at the intersection of Elm and Second Street Northwest near both schools and the water tower. 

Study estimates $1.8 million  for piping, pumping work 

By Robert Willams


Frazee residents Doug and Maria Demski spoke during the open forum about flooding issues at the intersection of Elm and Second Street Northwest near the water tower at the second monthly meeting of the Frazee city council Wednesday, March 29, at the Fire Hall.

The Demskis have lived at their home for 10 years and have suffered damages of at least $73,000 just to fix their foundation that has been eroded away. 

“There has to be a drain put in there because it’s just destroying my house,” Doug Demski said. 

The family put a porch on the front of their home in an attempt to alleviate water running into their basement from portions of the road and curb sinking over time. 

“I actually had tubes of water shooting through the floor joist into my basement,” he said. 

The flooding has occurred during heavy rains in the summer and spring melting. The water travels across the road and accumulates there in large puddles that interfere with street parking also.

The Demskis submitted photographic evidence to the council.

“That whole area has been on our radar,” Public Works Supervisor Larry Stephenson said. 

Stephenson and City Engineer Kris Carlson have discussed the area and how it fits in with larger future projects.

“We’ve been trying to put off some of these areas until we do our underground, but I think they’ve gotten to the point where we’re going to have to spend some money on an asphalt company coming in and doing a  band aid overlay on some of these areas to hopefully get us by a couple years,” said Stephenson.

The city has been maintaining as much snow as possible on the corner to move the melting snow water.

“Now the water is running around the corner to some degree. It’s gotten better,” said Maria Demski. “It’s not a big lake out there anymore.”

While city staff is getting together to look for a temporary solution, there are other streets in that area of town that need what Ulteig Engineering Technical Project Lead Chris Thorson called “big picture” planning.

The East Main project is next up, scheduled for 2024, assuming the legislature can pass a bonding bill this year to aid cities in completing infrastructure projects like these. 

Thorson suggested putting the area of town between the schools on a timeline for 2025 with water and sewer work.

Mayor Mark Flemmer reiterated that in the time being, city officials will work with the family on any possible temporary solutions.

Sanitary Sewer upgrade

Karen Pifher also reported on discussions with Becker County regarding the future removal of the gravity sewer line that spans the Otter Tail River, along with upgrading the city’s main sanitary lift station.

Thorson submitted a completed feasibility study based on current material prices and bidding climates. The project estimate for the replacement of the 1964 sanitary sewer collection pipe, new piping under the river and replacement of the 1986 main sanitary sewer pumping station and accompanying backup electrical generator building is $1,803,000.

According to Carlson, the project could likely be financed by the city applying for assistance from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA). The PFA provides financing and technical assistance to help communities build public infrastructure that protects public health and the environment and promotes economic growth. PFA funding comes in the form of low interest (1-3 percent) 20-year loans, along with possible principal forgiveness funds. Other means of payment would be funded by the city, with some costs recovered by way of city-wide system user fees billed to all benefiting parties.

The study had two options for city officials: move ahead with the project or do nothing. The latter would allow the system to continue to deteriorate potentially resulting in flow blockages and a worst case of the system backing up into homes, businesses and the Otter Tail River. 

The system will eventually need to be replaced in the future and the study noted the cost of the project will only increase in time.

The replacement and burying of the pipe under the river has multiple benefits in eliminating an obstruction on the navigable waterway, which is what the FCDC is concerned about with kayakers using the river by way of Wannigan Park.

The pipe would also be better protected underground from unexpected impact or freezing scenarios. Placing the piping under the river bed will require the main sanitary sewer pumping station to be replaced for the deeper piping elevations.

According to the report, the existing site has adequate space to place a new main sanitary sewer pumping station while keeping the existing station in operation during construction.

The construction could be done in conjunction with the East Main Avenue project scheduled for 2024.

The study concluded that the current piping and pumping station have met their expected service life. The city will need to upgrade in the near future in order to provide reliable sewer utility service to residents. The estimated costs are comparable with projects of a similar size done within the region.

Wannigan Regional Park

Pifher updated the council on behalf of the Frazee Community Development Corporation (FCDC), namely regarding funding for Wannigan Regional Park.

According to Pifher, a grant for the purchase of the land for the future park is listed in the top three to be funded by the legislature.

“The funding will be coming through,” she said.

The purchase plan has gone through a couple changes. Greg Ness, owner of the land, has required a sale of the property by May. Mr. Ness has been flexible with the sale having set earlier deadlines in 2022.

FCDC is allocating financing through United Community Bank to make the purchase. 

Originally, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) was prepared to purchase the land and act as an interim holder for four years to allow time for grant applications and other fundraising. GMRPTC was going to provide an interest-free loan to FCDC for the purchase and would have handled all the land transactions on its behalf.

FCDC will be supporting the contract sale to the city in September covering all the closing costs and any other costs.

The sale price is limited to the fair priced market value, according to Pifher. 

According to FCDC member Ashley Renollet, the GMRPTC was acting as a bank and purchasing the land from Ness temporarily, in order to meet the sale’s earlier 2022 timeframe.

Both Mayor Flemmer and Vice Mayor Mike Sharp questioned Pifher on the GMRPTC no longer being involved. 

“Parks and Trails took a look at it and it doesn’t align with their timeline,” said Pifher.