EDA close to settling Cedar Grove disputes

Ditch repair work at Cedar Grove Business Park - June 10, 2010
Ditch repair work at Cedar Grove Business Park - June 10, 2010

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Cedar Grove Business Park has had a troubled history, but the public agency that developed the park, the Cook County/Grand Marais Joint Economic Development Authority, or EDA, could soon be seeing a light at the end of a long, dark, and costly tunnel. WTIP’s Carah Thomas has more:
 
Building Cedar Grove Business Park is something local leaders worked towards for more than two decades.  But when construction finally began in 2006, so did the headaches.  Stormwater runoff violations began almost immediately, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued several citations as construction at the site progressed.   When the violations went unaddressed, the MPCA began enforcement action against the EDA, originally levying $277,000 in fines. The EDA holds contractor KGM and engineering firm SEH responsible for the violations and the fines, and the agency has been trying to settle the case and finish construction at the business park for more than three years.
 
At a special meeting of the EDA board on Thursday, June 10, the EDA’s attorney, Mike Hero, of Swanson Law Office in Grand Marais, presented the board with what he hopes will be the final documents that will settle the MPCA enforcement action and the disputes with KGM and SEH once and for all.  He said that as part of the negotiated settlement, the contractors were on site at that moment, correcting ditch work in the business park that had not been done properly in the first place. Unfortunately, said Hero, onsite inspections by himself and EDA Director Matt Geretschlaeger had revealed that the work was still not being done properly.
 
 “They’re finally up there to fix the mess,” said Hero. “They bring in all this rip rap that’s full of dirt. And all that dirt goes down to Lake Superior and we get a second enforcement action. So, we contact SEH and say, you know, ‘we got a real problem with this rip rap you guys, that KGM’s brought up here.’ And they come up and say, ‘yah, it’s going to have to be cleaned before it gets installed.’   So, first day, they’re up there up there, and they’re loading this rock in the ditch, dirt and all. They’re taking the rock, and they’re dumping it in the ditch, and then washing the rock, so all the mud and stuff goes down into Lake Superior. So we were absolutely fit to be tied yesterday. And so I called KGM’s attorney yesterday and I said, next time we catch it we’re calling the MPCA. The violations were as bad as the violations that we’ve been dealing with.” 
 
After close to three years of negotiations, the EDA hopes the end is in sight and that the issue will be resolved by June 21st.   After that date, a tolling agreement with the MPCA expires, and if the case isn’t settled, the MPCA will be required to file a lawsuit.
 
Regarding the $277,000 fine originally levied by the MPCA; that has been reduced to $120,000, and of that amount, the EDA will pay zero.  Contractor KGM is being held responsible, and will pay a $40,000 penalty, in addition to providing $80,000 in labor and materials for a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP).  That work has been completed.  In addition, KGM and SEH will pay the EDA’s environmental attorney’s fees of about $28,000.  However, the EDA will not recover other legal fees incurred as a result of the MPCA enforcement action, which total close to $60,000.
 
“It’s an absolutely incredible journey that this board has been on,” said Hero. “Maybe we’ll get this nightmare done shortly now.”

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