Mound officials ask senator for cleanup help
When Minnesota Sen. Al Franken visited Mound Westonka High School last Wednesday, he also visited with Mound officials about the cleanup of a fire training site located out of St. Bonifacius.
As a member of the Western Area Fire Training Association (WAFTA), Mound has part ownership in a fire training facility that was operated as a former NIKE missile base ran by the United States Department of Defense. WAFTA bought the site after the NIKE program was shut down in 1971. The problem with the site; it is contaminated and needs funding to provide clean up.
Greg Pederson, the chief of the Mound Fire Department as well as president of WAFTA, said that the meeting with Franken was helpful because Franken appeared to want funding to clean up the site. Pederson, City Manager Kandis Hanson and Finance Director Catherine Pausche attended the meeting.
“Absolutely he is going to try,” said Pederson of Franken’s efforts to help gain funding.
WAFTA was under the impression that they could receive an earmark, or a legislative approved funds that are directed towards a project. Franken told officials in their meeting that earmarks are something that is today not very common.
“We were trying to get an earmark,” he said. “Earmarks are something they don’t really do anymore. He and his office are going to try and help.”
There are 11 cities in WAFTA total, including Excelsior, Watertown, Mayer, St. Bonifacius, Long Lake, Victoria, Eden Prairie, Chaska and Chanhassen. Pederson said that these cities are having a tough time gaining enough money to fully restore the site, and private companies Excel Energy and Center Point Energy who used the land for training are not willing to help with cleanup costs.
“Nobody wants to play nice with our WAFTA group,” he said. “They basically told us to sue them.”
The NIKE missile site near St. Bonifacius was one of four sits that were built to protect the Twin Cities area. The others were located near the cities of Lakeville and Isanti in Minnesota, and Roberts, Wisc.
Although they have recently removed some buildings from the area, the restoration project is in requirement of more funding to continue clean up. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency did give some funding to clean the site up, but Pederson said it was not nearly enough to restore the area.
“It is kind of moving slow,” he said. “Out goal is to restore the land to the way it was.”