Things at the Soldiers Grove Fire Department are “going well” and the organization is “headed down the right path,” according to acting fire chief Ben Clason.
Clason told the board at their Thursday night meeting that the department has four new members and is in conversation with a few previous members about rejoining. One previous member has already committed to rejoining the department and others are considering doing so, Clason explained.
The fire department will hold an open house on Saturday, Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Clason told the board the event is planned “to get the public involved.”
There are more maintenance issues with the department’s brush truck, according to Clason. However, village trustee Paul Nicholson explained that the LaFarge Truck Center, which sold the truck to the department, is aware of the problems and has promised to “make it right.” The company told Nicholson they are prepared to take the truck back and replace the transmission with a new one and replace the rear seal.
Clason told the board the fire department currently has 18 to 20 members and has a goal of having 24 to 26 members.
In other fire department-related business, Clason told the board he would prefer to have fire inspection services handled by qualified members of the department and viewed the current $2,000 per year fee paid to an inspection company to be “a little bit steep.”
Village president Jerry Moran told Clason the contract with the inspector was coming up this month and Clason should get back to the village about plans to handle inspections in the coming year.
A high tech screen display of fire calls at the station called ‘I Am Responding’ will be activated when the fees are paid, the board learned. A firefighter experienced with the system from Middleton, who has ties to the local fire department, has promised to assist them with making the system work. The village board approved paying the fees to get the system activated.
The board also agreed to split fees totaling close to $1,500 for three controlled burns with the department. The village will take half the fees to cover costs and the other half will be put into the Redcoats account.
Village trustee Vicki Campbell gave the Community Development Corporation (CDC) report. She told the board that a loan of $30,000 was made to the Driftless Brewing Company to purchase the building for an enlarged brewing facility in the former grocery store in the Solar Town portion of Soldiers Grove.
Campbell explained the brewing company would pay only the interest on the loan for the first two years, as they get established. The CDC currently has a balance of about $36,961 left in its revolving loan fund. While Campbell is functioning as the group’s secretary and treasurer, there are not enough other board members or officers for the CDC to establish quorum and approve loans and handle other business. So, the group must rely on the village board to administer the funds and make loan decisions, according to Campbell. There are hopes the CDC will gain members and again be able to take over the administration of its funds.
Campbell picked up the discussion concerning the use of the room tax started at the last board meeting. She explained that by law 70 percent of the collected room tax from the motel and three bed and breakfasts had to be used for increasing tourism through advertising and other promotions. The other 30 percent was general revenue for the village of Soldiers Grove.
Driftless Art Festival organizer Liz Quebe asked if half of the room taxes were still planned to be used for the art festival.
Moran told Quebe the art festival was “a great thing for the community.”
The Old Oak Inn, the Roth House, the Country Garden Motel and the Inn at Lonesome Hollow are currently collecting the room tax.
There was some discussion about the need to include the names of the inns and motel on any posters promoting the art festival or any other tourism promotion paid for by room tax revenue.
Country Garden Motel owner Guy Nelson agreed the lodging establishments should be included in print ads. Nelson supported the Driftless Area Art Festival, Dairy Days and BMW Club Motorcycle Rally. However, he noted that it wasn’t necessary to generate room rentals on those three weekends, but it was very important to generate overnight stays throughout the year.
Nelson made it clear that he supported the art festival and the other events and thought they were run very well and were a great benefit to the community.
In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:
• discussed maintenance of village buildings, like the fire station, the well house and the bathroom in the lower part of the park
• approved a $750 donation to the North Crawford School Summer Rec Program and another $750 donation to the Gays Mills Swimming Pool Operation
• donated $100 toward a field trip for the North Crawford School’s Summer Reading Program
• granted picnic liquor sale licenses to Glad Farms’ Pony Club and the Soldiers Grove Lions Club for the upcoming BMW Club Motorcycle Rally