O'Brien County talks drain field dilemma

The O’Brien County Board of Supervisors recently discussed potential options for Germantown resident Brenda Heithus to install a septic drain field across the street from her home. Her original plan was in the triangular patch of grass near to cornfields where Cedar Avenue bends to become 481st Street, though engineer Scott Rinehart said that’s the county’s road right of way.

PRIMGHAR—O’Brien County engineer Scott Rinehart and the board of supervisors pondered Tuesday, Aug. 10, how to help a resident who is looking to set up a septic drain field near her Germantown home.

Brenda Heithus originally planned to place the drain field in the triangular patch of grass that’s immediately south of where Cedar Avenue bends east to become 481st Street in the unincorporated community.

However, Rinehart said the grassy area is within the county’s road right of way, and he would prefer to keep it in the county’s possession.

He suggested the county could vacate the stretch of Cedar Avenue that continues south past the grass triangle as well as the alley of platted land that runs east-west in between two plots of farmland for corn owned by Eugene and Betty Schuknecht south of Heithus’ residence.

The alley was platted when Germantown initially was laid out in the early 1900s in case a road were to be built there, but none ever has been. The strip of land extends east past the cornfields in between two residential properties located on Linden Avenue.

“We really ought to look at either vacating or selling that property just to get it back on the tax rolls,” Rinehart said. “We’re not ever going to build any roads there. I mean, that would take quite a change in the demographics of Germantown.”

Auditor Barb Rohwer said if the alley and stretch of Cedar Avenue were dedicated for public use, however, it would mean the county would have taken them by deed after they were platted. In that case, the county would need to get the stretches of land appraised then sold instead of simply vacating them if they were easements.

Rinehart said the former scenario would be a longer process than the latter.

Supervisor Dan Friedrichsen asked if a quicker solution could be to place the septic drain field onto the farming property itself south of 481st Street with the Schuknechts’ permission.

Rinehart agreed that would speed up the process, since the county then would just need to approve a utility crossing application for Heithus so the drain field could connect to her property underneath 481st Street. If it was located in a corner of the cornfield, Rinehart said it would be easier to farm around as opposed to putting it farther into the cornfield.

Supervisor Sherri Bootsma asked why the septic drain field could not be placed on the northern end of the Heithus property. Rinehart said Heithus has a building project underway on the north side of the house, which would limit available space. Beyond that to the north, the land is on an uphill incline.

Rinehart said his office would continue to look into the situation to come up with a solution.

He noted selling the alley in between the farming plots could be easier said than done due to potential reluctance from the farmer or nearby homeowners to buy it.

“What do those folks do when you say ‘We’re going to sell’? They say, ‘We’re not interested. We’re already mowing it in part of our yard and not paying taxes on it. I’m not too interested,’” he said.

“It’d be hard to believe anybody else is going to come up with the cash just to own 40 feet in the middle of two houses.”

Besides discussing options for the septic drain field with Rinehart, the board of supervisors approved a wine permit application for Solsma’s Punkin Patch & Fireworks near Sanborn.