Oak Grove officials meet applicants for water quality board

The Oak Grove City Council Jan. 28 met and interviewed recent applicants for the city’s seats on a regional watershed management organization board – and there are more to meet.

Ed Faherty, a current city member on the Upper Rum River WMO board who is hoping to continue in that service, came to council chambers last week and answered questions, as did Councilmember Dan Denno, another of the seven applicants for just two available seats.

But staff knew when compiling the applications for the council Jan. 28 that three of the applicants would be unable to attend and, by the meeting’s start, the remaining two applicants had also reported evening conflicts. The group of candidates other than Faherty and Denno includes John Wangensteen, the other current member serving on the board, and Stuart Bernard, Bernadette Lex, Brad Schroeder and Corey VanDenburgh.

Faherty, who has served Oak Grove in the WMO since 2007 and attended previous meetings as an alternate when needed, told the council that his family has owned a cabin on Lake George since 1960. He is a past president of the Lake George Conservation Club. Including overlooking the Rum River in Anoka, and other home locations, Faherty said he has lived year-round over water since 1973.

After Faherty gave his answers while facing the council from the public podium, Councilmember Sean Sullivan asked if they would pose the same questions to Denno.

Mayor Mark Korin said he had not intended to put Denno through that, expecting the council colleagues would know of Denno’s background. “I don’t really see a need to interview Dan,” Korin said.

But Denno agreed to the process and said if the council was going to hear from the other five candidates at the next meeting Feb. 11, he was willing to speak Jan. 28 in the interests of time.

Denno said he feels it would benefit Oak Grove to have an elected leader on the WMO board. There is precedent, as partner cities Bethel and St. Francis each have their mayors on the board and East Bethel has appointed an elected council member.

Denno said that like Faherty and the other applicants, he is concerned about clean water quality, but he also wants to be a voice for land owners as regulations are considered. “Property rights are very important to me,” Denno said.

The city council and staff hope to meet and greet their remaining WMO board applicants Feb. 11, but in case of another conflict they are willing to extend the process. “If there is another issue, we would push it (back) again,” City Administrator Rick Juba said.

The WMO board members serve no set terms, but they may be appointed or replaced at a city’s discretion.

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