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Soldiers Grove to limit plowing
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It didn’t take the Village of Soldiers Grove Board very long to decide that its municipal equipment would no longer be used to remove snow from the sidewalks and driveways of private residences.

In a discussion at their regular board meeting on Monday, Nov. 19, several village trustees pointed out that Soldiers Grove could no longer afford the cost in manpower and equipment to plow privately owned property.

Trustee Vicki Campbell said residents, who are now having sidewalks or driveways plowed by the village, “need to take responsibility” for getting that work done themselves.

Other trustees noted that the current policy was not fair to the residents who were removing snow from their own driveways and sidewalks.

Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works Brian Copus explained a couple of instances where plowing private driveways, or what appeared to be private driveways, was necessary for the village to plow its own property. Copus explained that in a few cases what appeared to be a private driveway was actually a village street. He also pointed out that in a few other cases it was advantageous to plow private property to more easily gain access to village sidewalks and streets.

The director of public works informed the board that the village plows streets in front of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church that are not publicly owned streets, as well as the church’s parking lot.

“Why are we taking care of their parking lot?” Campbell asked.

“I don’t know, but it has been that way for years,” Copus replied.

Campbell said the village needs to confine its plowing effort to village-owned streets. She insisted that the village “just has to do it the same for everyone.”

“We should not be plowing any personal driveways in my opinion,” Campbell said. “We need to quit doing driveways and quit doing sidewalks that we shouldn’t be doing.”

Village trustee Shayne Chapman agreed with Campbell that the village should confine its plowing effort to village-owned property. Chapman said the village couldn’t afford the cost of plowing other people’s property.

Campbell made a motion to end the practice of using village equipment and manpower to plow any sidewalk or driveway that is not village property. Chapman seconded the motion and it was passed by the board.

The motion also included the requirement that property owners have snow removed from sidewalks in a 48-hour period. Village clerk Tammy Kepler was instructed to check on the ordinance concerning snow removal.

In a related matter, the board discussed repairing the public works truck, which is used for snow removal in the village. The 12-year-old one-ton truck with only 40,000 miles on it must have an oil pan replaced due to rust. The truck is also facing the need to replace brake lines, fuel lines and more due to rust. It’s a problem common to vehicles that are used to plow snow.

Chapman said it would be wise to look into the cost of replacing the truck including dump box and plow. The trustee made a motion to pay for a repair to the oil pan and look into possibilities of replacing the truck in the future. Trustee Bob Froiseth seconded the motion and the board approved it.

“We’ll put off the rest of the work until spring, if we can make it that long,” Chapman said of the truck’s other potential problems.

During a report of the Soldiers Grove Community Development Corporation, Pete Knapik told the board that local room tax revenues in 2011 had provided the Village of Soldiers Grove with $1,180, Clayton Township with $852 and the CDC with $4,742. 

Knapik told the board the estimated receipts from room taxes in 2013 should provide Soldiers Grove with $1,967, Clayton with $1,420 and the CDC with $7,903. He noted this estimate was based on a lack of growth in revenue for any of the lodging properties.

However, tourism is growing, according to Knapik. He told the board tourism grew 12 percent in Crawford County in one year from 2010 to 2011.

Knapik, the owner of the Inn at Lonesome Hollow in Clayton Township, pointed out that by law all of the CDC room tax receipts must be reinvested in activities or infrastructure that will serve to increase local tourism.

The board discussed waiving the sewer rates on large amounts of water that had leaked onto the ground at two village residences. Jim Edge lost 25,000 gallons to a leak and Bill and Karen Prestwood lost 28,000 gallons a residence in the mobile home park.

“Where did the water go?” Vicki Campbell asked at one point. She and others wondered how the residents wouldn’t notice the large amount of water being lost in the leaks.

Nevertheless, trustee Gary Nelson made a motion to forgive imposing sewer bills on the gallons that had leaked away at the two properties. Chapman seconded the motion and the board approved it.

“We didn’t process that water in the sewer plant,” Nelson said in arguing for the bills to be forgiven. The residents were billed for the water usage.

In a library project report, Jerry Quebe, the chairman of the Library Expansion Project Committee, told the board that four bids were received when the project was recently re-bid.  All were higher than the budgeted amount and they were grouped within 10 percent of each other from the lowest to the highest.

Local builder Marv Hansen had the lowest bid and Quebe said the committee was working with him to identify 28 items and their prices that might be eliminated to get the price back within budget.

Quebe told the board the committee’s goal is to have the project trimmed down and ready by next week. He said the committee plans on bringing a finalized version of expansion/remodeling project to the December board meeting for approval.

In addition to trimming costs by choosing among 28 items to be eliminated, Hansen had suggested that a savings of $19,000 could be realized if the village waived the performance bond requirement. The contractor indicated he would substitute a letter of credit for $150,000 in lieu of the performance bond. The board agreed to have the village’s attorney review the letter of credit.

Quebe said he hoped the board could vote to award the contract at their December meeting and construction could begin on Jan. 1.

Following a closed session discussion, the board approved a 1.5 percent raise for village employees, while capping vacation at four weeks with 12 years of service.

In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• tabled any further discussion of additional reservoir construction on the Iverson property

• approved the relocation of a fire hydrant in the mobile home park at the owners’ expense to provide room for another site

• tabled the sale of village property on New Well Road to Ed Thoftne noting some of the property might have to be used for another water reservoir in the future

• switched the village’s bank account from Viroqua to Peoples State Bank

• agreed to hire Johnson and Block to do the year-end audit for approximately $9,000

• hired Smrcina Inspections to do building inspection work for the village

• hired Equity Assessment for the 2013-14-assessment contract  at a cost of $5,000

• decided after hearing reports to ask Vierbicher and Associates  to make a presentation on creating a plat map for the village

• approved a 2013 preliminary budget and set the public hearing date on the proposed 2013 budget for Thursday, Dec. 6 at 6:15 p.m.