‘Letter about Harris financial situation needs to be corrected’

to the editor

In last week’s edition there was a letter regarding the financial situation in Harris that needs some correction.  As the previous Mayor, two of the most important things that I, along with four council members were elected to do was to finally deal with the MPCA and Health Department mandates to solve the city’s water and waste water problems.  The author of the letter left out some very important facts that need to be disclosed.

First, the systems were built because of mandates from the State of Minnesota that could no longer be ignored.  The state and the previous Mayor made it clear that the mandates had to be fulfilled quickly.

Second, the city council voted unanimously (5-0) to build both systems. As the mayor, I only cast the final vote after all other members voted “yes”.  Our work satisfied an “unfunded mandate,” which is a requirement of the state that doesn’t come with the money to pay for it.  The council’s actions were necessary to avoid fines and penalties from the state or even lawsuits from the state or residents, which could result from negligence if we kept providing water containing five times the legal limit of “radium” which causes cancer.  The waste water system had to be replaced because it was leaking raw sewage at a rate of more than 25 percent per day directly into the ground water and polluting it.  That water table also supplies North Branch with drinking water.

Third, while it is true that the city has had to restructure its debt; the hardship resulted from four factors.  One was the collapse of the housing market and economy.  Next, the state took away the local government aid which was just about enough money to make the payments on the system. Third, the developer who was going to build a resort in Harris gave up and built it in Florida because of resistance from the group that is now complaining about having to pay for the system.  That developer alone would have paid for most of the system.  Fourth – for 20 years the city councils talked about the systems, but failed to set aside one dime.  Their failure to plan forced the entire system to be paid for with debt, excluding grants.

Finally, in last week’s letter I was quoted as saying that my political intention was to “get in and out as county commissioner”.  That merely referred to the fact that I do not intend to be a “career politician” – and I don’t.  I believe in term limits.


Rick Smisson

Dist. 5 Chisago County Commissioner candidate

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