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Soldiers Grove Board sorts out several disputes
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - There seems to be plenty of controversy swirling in the Village of Soldiers Grove as evidenced by their meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6. Ongoing uncertainty about the path forward with their sewer plant, disputes between neighbors about pets and livestock, and ongoing controversy about fire department members and equipment acquisitions made for a lively meeting.

Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works, Brian Copus, reported to the board that a pump and motor for one of the village’s sewer system lift stations was burned out and needed to be replaced. This left the village facing a decision about what level of repair to undertake in the context of ongoing discussions about a joint sewer project with the Village of Gays Mills. The situation leaves the village without a backup pump and motor for one of the lift stations.

“The consultant from Travis advised me that the pumps we’ve been using were never big enough for our system,” Copus told the board. “We’ve been using one-horse-power pumps and what they say we really need is a two-horse-power pump.”

Copus said that Travis had advised him to rebuild the lift station, hook it up to three-phase power, and install two-horse-power lifts. To hook up three-phase-power and install a new control panel would cost $2,000 to $3,000, and the total cost of rebuilding the lift station would come in a about $32,000. By contrast, the cost to install a replacement one-horse-power motor/pump is $4,832 with a four-to-six week lead time.

The villages of Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills will hold a joint meeting at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. At that meeting, one of the topics will be a discussion of the possibility of jointly hiring an engineering firm to explore the feasibility of a joint sewer project.

The Soldiers Grove Village Board voted to purchase and install a new one-horsepower pump/motor for the lift station at a cost of $4,832. This way they will have a backup pump to ensure that their current system will be able to operate without interruption. They decided to wait on any decision about any upgrades to the system pending a determination about the feasibility of a joint project with Gays Mills.

Trustee Shayne Chapman raised the question, should the village decide down the road to invest in an upgrade of the lift station, whether grant funds could be obtained for the project. He suggested that if grant funds were to be pursued, the project could be expanded to the other lift stations in the village’s sewer system as well.

“Any upgrades the village makes to our sewer system will help us with our DNR variance,” Nicholson said. “Even the news that we are engaging a new engineering firm will help.”

Fire department

Former Soldiers Grove Fire Chief Ben Clason attended the meeting and spoke during the ‘public input’ portion of the agenda. Clason expressed concern about an article in the Independent-Scout about the last meeting where it was reported that the village would pursue purchase of a pumper truck for their fleet.

“I am concerned about Vicki Campbell’s statements as reported in the paper that the brush truck was quoted to cost $65,000 and came in at a cost of $100,000,” Clason said. “I want to state for the record that the purchase of the brush truck came in under budget.”

Clason went on to tell the board that he is still questioning his removal as a firefighter from the fire department, along with Anthony Francis. Clason alleged that his removal was “discriminatory or retaliatory.” He alleged that comments he had made about another fire department member had resulted in his removal from the department the next time the village board met.

“I don’t think it is right that there was no review before I was removed from the department so the board could get the whole story,” Clason said. “This has affected my life, and resulted in my daughter being bullied at school.”

Village President Paul Nicholson informed Clason that the board was not prepared to discuss the situation without their attorney being present. Concerns were expressed by both Clason and a member of the board about the coverage that had already appeared in the Independent-Scout about this issue, and what coverage would appear going forward.

Neighbor disputes

Village president Paul Nicholson briefed the board on a neighbor dispute situation that had required a great deal of his time and attention in the preceding week.

About a year ago, Deb and Rick Olson petitioned to have their Town of Clayton property on the outskirts of Soldiers Grove  annexed by the village. The Olsons were interested in having access to the village’s sewer and water service. The annexation occurred, although the property has not yet been hooked up to village water or sewer.

The Olson’s daughter rents the property, and at the time of annexation, had ducks, chickens and goats on the property. In addition, she also has two dogs. Recently, the dogs were off their leash and a neighbor complained, stating that one of the dogs is aggressive. The neighbor also cited a village ordinance prohibiting the keeping of fowl in village limits. 

Olson then cited a village ordinance against keeping more than two dogs in the village, and pointed out that another neighbor had five older small show dogs, according to village president Paul Nicholson. Deb Olson has contacted Nicholson to ask that her property be annexed out of the village and returned to the Town of Clayton.

“The village contacted Crawford County Animal Control to come and investigate the complaint of the Olson’s dogs running loose,” Nicholson reported. “Crawford County Animal Control Officer Chrissy Reynolds reported that one of the dogs did appear to be somewhat aggressive, and Deb Olson’s daughter has been ordered by the village to keep her dogs tied up.”

As far as the chickens and ducks, and the request by Deb Olson to have the property annexed back out to the Town of Clayton, there has been agreement to wait until the next meeting of the Soldiers Grove Village Board to see if a compromise can be reached. 

“It was my fault that this matter was not placed on the agenda for this meeting,” Nicholson said. “At our next meeting, the board will take up the possibility of a variance for the Olson property with respect to the chickens and ducks given they were present on the property when it was annexed.”

Regarding the neighbor with the five elderly show dogs, the village has contacted the resident to require that the dogs be registered and photographed. Based on precedent of a similar situation in 2007, the resident will be allowed to keep the five dogs, but as they pass away, the resident will not be allowed to replace them. Ultimately, the resident will be required to reduce the number of dogs down to the two allowed by village ordinance.

President’s report

Soldiers Grove Village President Paul Nicholson reported that January had been a busy month for the village. He said that the auditors had been there, and that the audit is “in progress.” He reported that he had just learned that the tobacco warehouse has become a bed and breakfast facility within the village, and that they will be required to begin paying room taxes.

On a bright note, Nicholson reported that Solar Meats now has their retail sales room up and running. He also reported that the Soldiers Grove Rod & Gun Club is interested in purchasing some land from the village, and that this matter will appear on the next meeting agenda.

Reporting for the fire department, with Fire Chief Roger Olson being absent, Nicholson said that Olson and Charlie Strait would travel to Delaware to inspect the pumper truck the village is considering purchasing. He said that the proposed purchase price for the truck is $45,000 (the original asking price was $65,000) and that the Delaware department proposes to “throw in” some extra equipment.

Park rental contract

The board approved a new park rental contract at their meeting. Prior to approval, the board discussed whether a renter would pay only for the days the park is rented for an event, or if they would be required to pay for set-up and clean-up days as well. The agreement was to charge only for the days of the event, with the understanding that camping would be separate from rental of the park.

Under the new contract, rental of the Lion’s Shelter without use of the kitchen is $75 per day; rental of the shelter with the kitchen is $100 per day; use of just the cooler in the Lion’s Shelter will be $50 per day; rental of the entire park without the Lion’s Shelter will be $100 per day; rental for the entire park with the Lion’s Shelter, including the kitchen is $175 per day; rental of the campground (Triangle) for two nights (includes camping fees) is $600 per event; and a $100 deposit per event is required. There will be no fee for rental of the horse arena pull track, but the direction of the pull must be away from the parking lot, and the arena must be restored to its prior condition after the event. 

Applicants who rent the park are required to obtain liability insurance for an event that includes alcohol or has 150 or more people per day. Proof of this insurance with coverage no less than $1,000,000 which names and endorses the village, its officers, agents, employees and contractors as an additional insured party is due no later than 20 days before the event.

Other business

In other business, the board:

• heard a CDC report indicating that payments on loans are current; that the money market account contains $56,280.37; the checking account contains $303.46; and that Country Gardens is past due on fourth quarter room tax

• approved a donation to the Driftless Art Festival in the amount of $3,258.80

• heard that the public works department’s new mower has arrived

• approved the purchase of a laptop computer and printer for use by the public works department to take over their own paperwork and set up an e-mail account to be used to communicate with various governmental agencies

• approved a $3,500 contract with the North Crawford Rescue Squad.