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Dam concerns

Monday’s Brainerd City Council meeting brought a warning notice of what could prove an expensive ride for Brainerd taxpayers.

Bids to repair the concrete spillway apron of the former Wausau hydroelectric dam, now owned by the city of Brainerd, came in at $400,000 above the $1.2 million - $1.5 million cost anticipated back in March. The sale of bonds to fund the purchase and various repairs are now delayed until September.

When the liabilities of an investment appear greater than its potential gains, you are face-

to-face with a bad investment. This dam might be one of those bad investments. As Brainerd citizens, we are forced to passively sit back and watch.

My guess is Wausau would gladly have handed over the dam for a mere dollar - just to rid itself of the endless liabilities posed by a 100-year-old dam rated by the state’s Department of Resources as being in only “fair condition.” But with the secrecy surrounding the $2.6 million purchase, we may never know. Even the price of one dollar seems too much.

It was a 5-1 Brainerd City Council vote that brought us to this, with only Alderman Mary Koep sounding the siren. And many of us are old enough by now to know that the “majority” is not always right.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, made a bad investment in 2004, when it decided to transform its municipal incinerator into a trash-to-energy plant. Cost was supposed to be $64 million and the plant was supposed to generate $57 million in annual surpluses to the city by 2028. Instead, the project put the city more than $300 million in debt. After unsuccessfully seeking relief by declaring bankruptcy, Harrisburg was thrown into receivership.

But, as they say, that’s just water over the dam.