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The St. Paul Park City Council granted a six-month waiver extension last week to the owners of Hidden Harbor Marina allowing the business to continue operating its bar and restaurant without connecting to city water and sewer. Bulletin photo by Jon Avise

Hidden Harbor marina in St. Paul Park gets second sewer waiver extension

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government Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The St. Paul Park City Council has extended a waiver to a riverside marina and restaurant that will allow the business to continue operating without paying for an expensive municipal sewer and water hookup.

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City officials warned the business, however, they're running out of patience.

River Fun, LLC, owners of Hidden Harbor Marina and its bar and restaurant, Vinny's on the River, located at 388 Ninth Ave. in St. Paul Park, have operated for more than a year in violation of Washington County health regulations that require the business be connected to city sewer and water service.

Accusing the marina's owners of not cooperating with the city on the issue, City Council members voted last week to grant a six-month extension to a waiver originally issued last year that allows the business to operate with its current septic system. The waiver is needed for the restaurant to obtain a food license from the county.

River Fun had proposed a two-year extension in discussions with the city. The council voted 3-2 to reject a proposed one-year extension to the waiver prior to approval of the six-month deal.

"At this point, how far do we go granting extension, after extension, after extension with them waiting for us to solve the problem but seeing minimal-to-no movement?" Mayor Keith Franke said.

"We need to see some action on their end," he said later.

Connecting the business to city service wouldn't be cheap; City Administrator Kevin Walsh estimated the cost at roughly $400,000. Hidden Harbor's owners have said that is too expensive for the business at this time.

County officials brought the water and sewer issue to the city more than two years ago but have since deferred to officials at St. Paul Park City Hall, saying the issue is a local one. Walsh said the city has been content to allow Hidden Harbor to continue operating, for the time being, under its current arrangement that sees its septic system pumped frequently throughout the year at what its owners said earlier this year comes at a high cost to the business.

To save money, the owners earlier this year proposed the city complete the water and sewer connection as part of a stormwater drainage improvement project scheduled to take place in the immediate area next year.

Under that plan, the city would front the cost of the private improvement as part of the drainage fix and assess its costs to Hidden Harbor over more than a decade. Walsh said the city is not in a strong enough fiscal position to undertake what he and other city officials have deemed an improvement that would benefit just one business, not general taxpayers.

"I don't think our funds are healthy enough to even offer that," Walsh said.

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