The primary election for Camden County presiding commissioner took a figurative dive into the sewers over the past few weeks. Both Republican challengers criticized incumbent Carolyn Loraine for the state of the Camden County Sewer District.


The sewer district encompasses three sewer systems: Camelot Estates, Sunny Slope subdivison, and NORMAC Estates. Customers in Camelot and NORMAC pay flat rate bills of $59 month. The Camden Sewer Board is currently considering changing Sunny Slope’s billing structure to make it conform with NORMAC and Camelot.


The primary election for Camden County presiding commissioner took a figurative dive into the sewers over the past few weeks. Both Republican challengers criticized incumbent Carolyn Loraine for the state of the Camden County Sewer District.

The sewer district encompasses three sewer systems: Camelot Estates, Sunny Slope subdivison, and NORMAC Estates. Customers in Camelot and NORMAC pay flat rate bills of $59 month. The Camden Sewer Board is currently considering changing Sunny Slope’s billing structure to make it conform with NORMAC and Camelot.

“Sewer bills are going to be at $60 apiece whether you are part-time or whatever. The elderly people that are on fixed incomes and a lot of the people that are in the hourly jobs can’t afford that $60 a month for sewer. Besides that, you are paying water, and you’re paying association and other taxes and everything else on top of that,” Republican challenger Scott Martin said at a Camdenton Area Chamber of Commerce candidate event.

Martin referred to the sewer systems as “the three disasters we have had with our sewer districts under the present leadership.”

Commissioner Loraine said that the Camden Sewer Board had little choice in raising rates to their current levels. USDA Rural Development oversees bond payments on the three projects. In the month of July, NORMAC and Camelot made bond obligations and Sunny Slope came up about $4,000 short on bond debt repayment. Loraine says USDA Rural Development set the initial sewer rates when the systems were installed 10 years ago, thinking the rates would be adequate to cover bond costs.

At the August sewer board meeting, Chairperson Cheyrl Kohout stated that a better collection system for unpaid sewer bills would help Sunny Slope’s funding, but would not completely solve the problem.

Republican presiding commissioner-hopeful Kris Franken spoke at the same meeting. Franken criticized the engineers and installers at Camelot and Sunny Slope. He said that pipes were incorrectly placed in culverts, which led to breakage, and that air release valves were placed in the middle of streets, where they were hit and broken by cars.

“I know for a fact that it was brought to the commission’s attention that the air release valves were placed in the street and it was recommended prior to the check being cut for the final installation of the Sunny Slope system to move those air intake valves out of the street,” Franken said.

“I am not the inspector that was paid for (sewer installation). We hired the engineering firm to do this. No commissioner goes out and micromanages every single job that is done by the county or county workers,” Loraine told Franken. “I know that you have a special interest in sewers, but that’s not the only thing the county does.”

Franken says the installer should have caught flaws in the engineering design that led to spills, breaks, and stormwater infiltration.

“The state has people that they are licensing to do that type of work that have the obligation, according to the state, to review those plans even though a professional engineer prepared them,” Franken said.
Loraine argued that it was unfair for Franken and other critics to place blame squarely on the county commissioners for what she described as a “nightmare.”

“When we hire reputable engineers with reputable backgrounds and reputable people and we pay them and they go through all of the funding processes, DNR, EPA, and the scrutiny of (USDA) Rural Development. It is a little hard then to backtrack and blame it on the commissioners,” Loraine said.

Krehibiel Engineering served as the designer of the Sunny Slope system while Schultz Engineering designed the sewers at Camelot Estates. Two outside researchers are examining the proposed flat rate structure in Sunny Slope at the request of the Camden Sewer Board. There is no deadline for when the researchers will make recommendations for the board or commission to act on.

Contact this reporter at rance.burger@lakesunonline.com.