Drainage ditches in Meadowlands increase taxes, upsetting farmers

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Farmers in meadowlands have found it difficult to deal with the amount of water in drainage ditches along roadways and on their lands. Now, residents are outraged at St. Louis County Public Works, for increased taxes to fix what they say is a long overdue issue.

Tom Horvath, a farmer of Meadowlands, has been leading the other residents for fixing the drainage ditches. However, the overall costs to fix a few ditches have become a financial nightmare for Meadowlands residents. “They were talking $50,000 a mile to dig the ditches. And now that would more than double this. Well, and that this the thing is, when we petitioned this. Yeah, we only petitioned a small portion of it. We just wanted a few miles of this ditch dug.” Horvath said. “And what we had to do was just to get the records back to what should have been kept in the first place. Well, so that’s what we’re trying to get cleared up. I understand we have to get assessed. I’m all for that.”

The costs for land assessment of these drainage ditches are costing Tom Horvath and other residents in Meadowlands more than $450,000. “You can’t take and put this kind of a tax burden on this area. We’re not like the Red River Valley where their land is $15,000 an acre. We’re looking at $800 to $1,000 dollars. So you can’t bring their prices and assess us for that.” Horvath said. “And actually, if this would have been a complete project with this, it probably wouldn’t have been too bad. I thought, ‘you know what, I have to pay some, but now I got a viable system.’ But I’m looking at it and I still have nothing. And now it’s going to more than double if they do it.”

Many residents in Meadowlands say St. Louis County were negligent, because the drainage ditches in the past were fixed by the St. Louis County. Tom Horvath explained St. Louis County actions for solving this ditch issue is going to set precedent in the rest of the county. “And that’s what’s happening here. There’s nobody that can take accountability, and see how they were wrong. Maybe they should be looking for some federal funding somewhere, somehow to correct what they did. And nobody’s doing it. It’s like there’s nobody that they can go to.” Horvath said. “I understand this has to get done. I’m not saying this was done wrong, it was done legally. But there’s got to be different ways.”

While there have been attempts by residents in Meadowlands to fix the drainage ditch issue, St. Louis County stopped any intervention. Matt Beyer, a senior engineering technician with St. Louis County, explained the drainage ditch issue is far more complex. “You know, these systems were created to drain to the river. And, you know, it would be easy to go in and I guess, for lack of a better term, screw up the system or make it worse than it was before they went in there. That is the whole point behind us being the drainage authority, being in charge of that system in those ditches.” Beyers said.

Beyer also said the meeting that took place between the Meadowlands farmers and St. Louis County Public Works would not negotiate the land assessment costs. “There is no negotiation. The dollars that we were talking about have already been expended. And they need to be by statute, borne by the benefitting parties. So they’re there. The county cannot by law absorb any of these costs.” Beyers said.

For more information you can look on the St. Louis County website here https://county-ditch-4-slcgis.hub.arcgis.com/pages/history.

For a story about staying safe along trails and avoiding ditches you can look here https://www.wdio.com/front-page/local-news/having-fun-and-being-safe-while-hitting-the-trails-with-snowmobiles/.