Harold Dawson is the Harris City Attorney. Daniel DeKoter from his firm, DeKoter, Thole, Dawson, and Rockman says that their whole firm works for the city. DeKoter says he has been working on the lagoon issue with Dawson.
DeKoter says that the city of Harris is completing phase one (sewer line repair and re-lining) but has no way to pay for phase two (the lagoon work) unless the county eventually funds it. DeKoter says that the city will be at the debt limit under the Iowa Constitution in order to complete the first phase.
He says that the city is seeking a five-year deferral from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on its order to complete phase two, but so far does not have that permission.
DeKoter states, “Without that permission the city’s only other option is to disband the town and let the county deal with it.”
Harris, Iowa — A northwest Iowa town is going ahead with sewer repairs and upgrades without some financial help that had been arranged.
Merlin Sandersfeld, who was then the chairman of the Osceola County Board of Supervisors told us in 2015 that an Urban Renewal Area was proposed to be set up in a two-mile radius of Harris, which includes 22 wind turbines. But Sandersfeld told us at the time that since Harris could only count on the revenue from the increased valuation of 22 of the turbines, they didn’t feel that that would be enough revenue for their project.
So, the proposal was made that the tax revenue from the increase in valuation for 53 of the wind turbines in the area for the final increment go toward the Harris project for the duration of the plan instead of only the 22 turbines around Harris. The Urban Renewal Plan would have redirected this final increment to Harris for the next 13 years.
A group of taxpayers didn’t like the idea, so they sued. The case was eventually dismissed, but the taxpayers have appealed, and the case is still in the appeals process.
However, time keeps ticking, and Harris City Clerk Holly Wilson says the city was under a deadline from the Iowa Department of Natural resources to do something about their sewer system and lagoon — even without the extra funding.
She says whether the city would backfill the funding for the project with received TIF money if all appeals to the TIF case fail, would be a decision the city council would have to make with the help of the city attorney, if that came to fruition. City officials say that a part of the funding for the project will have to come in the form of rate increases instead.
Wilson says that the city is under an administrative order from the DNR to complete phase one of the project by August.
She says phase one of the project is repairing and relining the town’s sewer lines. Phase two is the lagoon and what needs to be done to bring it into compliance. She says one of the problems is that the lagoon is letting wastewater out and into the Ocheyedan River too often.
According to Wilson, the issues are related to the age and state of disrepair of the lagoon. She says it’s been an ongoing problem for around ten years.