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General fund balance has increased
In Soldiers Grove
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - At their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Oct. 7, the Soldiers Grove Village Board heard from their auditor that the village’s general fund was trending up. This follows five years of a concerning downward trend. From 2015, the balance in the fund declined from $449,295 to $183,104 in 2019. Bucking the trend, between 2019 and 2020, the fund balance had increased to $296,235.

Soldiers Grove Village President Paul Nicholson attributes this trend reversal to several factors. First, Nicholson said, the switch the village had made in engineering firms that are contracted to help them with upgrades to their sewer system. Additional factors included: steps the board took to refinance a long-term loan to more favorable terms and a quicker pay-off; assistance from Gary Koch of Community Development Alternatives in budgeting; and payment from FEMA for costs associated with flood recovery, These factors all contributed to this positive outcome, according to Nicholson.

The trend in the village’s water utility net position was up slightly after remaining flat for three years. The utility’s net position is quantified as $1,132,854, up $3,823 from 2019. Similarly, the sewer utility’s net position stopped its precipitous five-year decline, and showed a very modest increase from 2019 to 2020. The utility’s net position closing out 2020 was $107,434, up $1,775 from 2019. The full impact of revisions to the village’s sewer utility rate structure is expected to be more visible in the 2021 audit.

Food truck discussion

Spilling over from an issue brought forward at the board’s last meeting, a discussion of whether the village should regulate food trucks ensued at the meeting. The board took no action at the meeting to implement additional regulations on food trucks operating in its boundaries. All food trucks are required to have a state license for their operation.

Driftless Brewing Company (DBC) business manager Cynthia Olmstead was present at the meeting to address the board on the issue of food truck regulations.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend the last meeting where the issue about the food trucks was brought forward,” Olmstead said. “Before this meeting, I talked with Guy Nelson of Country Gardens, and though he couldn’t be here tonight, he wants the board to know that he supports DBC and is an advocate for free enterprise.”

Olmstead pointed out that DBC had followed all of the village protocols for having a food truck in the village. She recounted the history of how DBC had been allowed to use the outdoor space in the parking lot in the summer months. She also pointed out that during that time, DBC had brought thousands of visitors to the village from outside of the area, and those visitors had used the services of all of the businesses in the village.

“I spend five-to-six days per week pursuing free advertising for DBC and for the village,” Olmstead observed. “This is the kind of effort that it takes to get people to come to the village, and the economic development our business has brought to the village more than compensates for any lack of rental fees we’ve paid for use of the outdoor space.”

Olmstead stated that even when the food truck had been at DBC, she had observed the restaurants in town having lots of business. She said that she does not believe that the food truck was taking their business away. Further, she said that at times Country Gardens had been overwhelmed with business, and had fielded requests for more diversity in their food offerings.

“Most of our customers are not local people,” Olmstead said. “Our business model is to be a catalyst in the community, and I believe we have fulfilled that function.”

Olmstead pointed out that with winter coming, it will no longer be possible for them to use the outdoor space. She said that, as for other businesses, this will force DBC to make some tough choices.

“I would prefer that all the businesses in town work together,” Olmstead said. “I’d like us to think about how best to take advantage of the extra traffic our business brings to town, together.”

Supervisor Vicki Campbell spoke to the issue after Olmstead had finished with her remarks.

“We need to work together as a community, and have respect for each other, of which I think there has been a lack,” Campbell said. “I have listened to the concerns expressed by Kathy Sobek and Deb Arndt, and I understand the point they make about how their businesses pay taxes in the village.”

Nicholson took issue with Campbell’s point of view.

“Should I be upset that the Mobil station in town sells motor oil? I sell motor oil,” Nicholson said. “I think that if the village begins to meddle in competition, that will put us in dangerous territory.”

Supervisor Shayne Chapman pointed out that “DBC brings lots of business to the village.”

Nicholson said that between this meeting and the last, he and village clerk Kaitlynn Gander had done lots of research about the issue of regulating food trucks, and they have concluded that “there is nothing we can do about them.”

“If we were to require an inspection, then all the restaurants in town would also have to be inspected,” Nicholson said. “Personally, when I drive around our village on Friday night, and see people at DBC and the Old Oak Inn, and lots of cars parked in front of Desperados and Country Gardens, it makes me really proud of our village.”

In other business

In other business, the board:

• heard from Diane Coleman that there were still unregistered vehicles in the village, some of which she said, are being driven

• heard from Diane Coleman that there had been a bad mosquito problem in the village this summer, and that she would like to see the village spray for mosquitos

• voted to pay a bill from JI Construction for the sewer system upgrade project

• heard that the contractor for the sewer upgrade project is waiting on delivery of the pumps and controls for the new lift station before it can be connected and the old lift station decommissioned

• Carol Roth, Executive Director for Driftless Development, provided information on a grant being submitted to increase housing throughout Crawford County. All municipalities in the county will have the opportunity to be part of this Wisconsin Innovation Grant being submitted by Prosperity Southwest.  PSW is the six-county regional economic organization of which Crawford County is a part.  Roth represents Crawford County on their board.  More details will become available as the grant is finalized.

• voted unanimously by roll call to issue a raze order for the Schneider property, which an inspector had condemned as being a hazard, not useable for human occupation

• heard that Supervisors Homer Arndt, Harrison Heilman and Tobacco Warehouse owner Noel Miller had met since the last meeting, and were making progress on finding a contractor to design a new website for the village

• voted unanimously to pay for replacement of the solar wall on the Fire Department building 50/50 with the fire department at a cost of approximately $17,000

• heard from Director of Public Works Brian Copus that issues with parked vehicles and garbage receptacles in the flat, would need to be resolved before the snow flies

• heard that the fire hydrants in the village would be flushed the following Wednesday

• heard that village president Paul Nicholson had attended water school in Boulder, Colo., the week before

• heard that the village’s water system will be inspected by the Wisconsin DNR on November 2

• heard that the village’s tractor with the closed cab used for the broom and snow plow will require some repairs between now and the next meeting

• voted to set Halloween trick-or treat hours in the village for Sunday, October 31, from 4-7 p.m.