Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - October 16,2002

City council grants fence around pond

By Michael Jacobson

To the delight of residents along Morningside Avenue, the city council voted last week to have the city install a fence around a new stormwater retention pond.

The new pond - built this summer as part of the extension of South Street and the addition of ten lots on the east side of town - borders the backyards of a number of houses on Morningside Avenue. A group of citizens requested a fence for safety reasons, discussing the matter twice with the public works committee and bringing a petition, signed by 11 homeowners, to the city council on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

The residents maintained that the new pond was too close to their backyards to be safe without a fence and that the city should be responsible for the fence, since their homes were built before the pond was built. "My concern is the safety of the children," said Joyce Anderson, one of five residents to address the city council last week. "The children are the bottom line. We have lots of kids in the neighborhood. We have lots of kids in nearby neighborhoods."

"All we are asking you is to use common sense and have the city do what it should be doing to protect the children," she added.

The proximity of the fence to the existing homes on Morningside Avenue prompted the residents' concern, added Allen Anderson later in the meeting. "If you would have built this pond 100 yards away, we wouldn't be here tonight, I guarantee you," he said, "because that gives us a 100-yard head start to catch a three-year-old. But not 40 feet."

None of the residents objected to the necessity of having the pond, which is intended to collect stormwater temporarily and reduce flooding on the ends of Morningside Avenue and Sunrise Avenue.

The city council heard technical explanations from city engineer Pete Carlson, legal opinions from city attorney Bill Spooner, and safety concerns from the residents in an hour-long discussion before voting 4-1 to erect a four-foot chain-link fence around the pond.

The fence is expected to cost around $7,000 and will have to be expanded when the pond is enlarged to handle more runoff water from the future development of land to the east.

Council members Harlan Beek, Jean Soine, Jeff Thompson, and Dennis Zimmerman voted in favor of erecting the fence. Council member Dave Peschong favored waiting to see if the pond was working as designed before erecting a fence.

Carlson explained that the pond was designed to handle runoff stormwater and reduce, or eliminate, flooding on the south ends of Sunrise Avenue and Morningside Avenue. In 2004, when South Street is rebuilt, curb and gutter will be installed and the pond will have to be enlarged to handle runoff from there as well.

The pond was designed to hold water temporarily, with the water in the pond dispersing by infiltrating the soil. But unlike a pond along Spruce Street, built for Project 55, which drains in hours, this pond held water for most of the summer.

Carlson suspects that extra black dirt was keeping water in the pond. He designed it to have four inches of black dirt, to help vegetation to grow. But when the dirt from the bottom was removed last week, there was more than Carlson had planned.

Originally, the pond had 4:1 slopes on its banks, the maximum allowed. The slope had been reduced to 6:1 around most of the pond now.

Whether the pond holds water for hours, days, or months, it still poses a threat to neighborhood children, said Dusty Veldkamp, another street resident who addressed the council.

Legally, the city was not required to fence the pond, but the council needed to weigh how the pond was functioning and whether it was an unreasonable risk, advised Spooner. The city could face liability for not having a fence and liability for having a fence, he added later.

Zimmerman was concerned about setting a precedent. The city has four other stormwater retention ponds, none of which are fenced. Carlson and Spooner advised that the city was not required to install a fence, but Allen Anderson cited examples of cities that do fence ponds or fence ponds in close proximity to residential areas.

Zimmerman was also concerned with how the city would pay for future fences around retention ponds, and Carlson said that fences in new developments would be assessed to the lots created.

Since modifications to the pond to make it drain faster had just been implemented and since it was therefore unknown if the pond would now work as designed, Thompson suggested erecting a snow fence as a temporary measure, but he voted with the majority when the proposal to build a fence was put to a vote.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community