SOLDIERS GROVE - At their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, July 14, the Soldiers Grove Village Board took multiple momentous actions.Actions in regular session related to the sewer plant include unanimous approval of Delta-3 Engineering’s ‘Facility Plan’ for their sewer treatment plant, to move forward with pursuing grant funding for proposed upgrades, pursue water quality trading credits, and approval of a sewer plant inspection quote. Other actions included approval of a village chicken ordinance, rezoning of two parcels of village industrial property on North Clayton Road, and a unanimous vote to pursue seal coating maintenance on roads in the village.
Bart Nies of Delta-3 Engineering attended the meeting to answer board and citizen questions during a 30-minute public hearing about proposed sewer plant activities. The hearing took place immediately preceding the board meeting. Citizens Nancy Olson and Diane Coleman were present for the hearing.
“Our plan for the wastewater facility is estimated on problems found with each component in the plant,” Nies told the group. “The plan includes evaluation of each component, soils, a proposal to fix problems and achieve goals, the estimated cost and estimated cost to sewer system users.”
Nies said the current plant is designed for 114,000 gallons-per-day, and that his estimate designs for an amount of 62,000 gallons-per-day. This amount is more in line with the village’s average usage in 2019-2021 of 38,000 gallons-per day. He said the sludge storage at the facility currently has a capacity of 42,000 gallons-per-day, and would be augmented to take 50,000 gallons-per-day.
“The two main driving forces in our proposal are regulation enforcement standards from Wisconsin DNR (WDNR) for E.coli and Phosphorous in wastewater treatment plant effluent,” Nies said.
The deadline for submission of a plan for E.coli standards in effluent compliance is April of 2025, and the deadline for submission of a plan for phosphorous in effluent compliance is September of 2025.
Options for E.coli compliance include upgrading the current chlorine gas treatment system or installation of an ultra-violet disinfection system. Options for phosphorous removal include an expensive tertiary filter system, or a biological treatment system combined with pursuit of an estimated 94 water quality trading (WQT) credits through stream bank restoration. Nies recommended the ultra-violet and biological treatment plus WQT options.
“Our estimated total cost of all proposed upgrades is $3.9 million,” Nies said. “If you do the projects piecemeal, I estimate it will cost the village two-to-five times as much as if you do them all at one time.”
Nies said that estimated annual cost to sewer plant users, if no grants are received, is $750 per year or $60 per month. He said that there is a historic amount of funding being provided to WDNR to assist municipalities in upgrades to sewer treatment systems from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by the U.S. Congress. That amount is $25 million per year for the next five years.“Tomorrow, I’ll begin working with WDNR on our grant/loan application, with a 50/50 grant/loan proposal,” Nies said. “If that proposal is successful, then we’d apply for Community Development Block Grant funding which would pay 67 percent of the villages $1,950,000 half of the cost of the project, or $1,306,500. This would mean the village could be required to pay as little as 10 percent of the total cost or $390,000. This would be the amount of the low-interest, 20-year, loan from WDNR. He pointed out that WDNR grant funding could be higher than 50 percent, and the WDNR loan for the recently completed sewer system upgrade project had come in at zero percent.
In 2021, an attempt by residents to ask the board to approve a chicken ordinance in the village allowing the keeping of backyard chickens, died when no one showed up for a public hearing. The board voted down the proposal, and imposed a one-year moratorium on consideration of the ordinance.
Led by Sammy Goodwin and her son Peyton Zitzner, the citizens once again brought the issue to the village board. Goodwin, young Zitzner, and Taliya Benson spoke in favor of the ordinance in the public comment section of the regular meeting.
“I want my children to learn about how democracy works,” Goodwin told the board. “In our research about village resident’s opinions about backyard chickens, we found that some are opposed but the majority support it.”
Goodwin pointed out that last year, 100 village residents had signed their petition supporting passage of an ordinance, with eight opposed. This year, an additional 45 residents had signed supporting passage of an ordinance.
“Trustee Harrison Heilman is not at this meeting, and last year he opposed passage of an ordinance,” Goodwin said. “He asked me if it would be fair to those in the village who don’t have yards to keep chickens in, and I said it’s also not fair that they can’t have gardens or a place to put a trampoline, etc…”
Zitzner told the board that his chickens mean a lot to him. He said they are good at eating bugs and scraps, and provide his family with eggs. He said he feels proud about knowing where his food comes from. Benson told the board she “loves our chickens more than you think,” and that she would appreciate the board allowing her family to keep chickens.
Village president Paul Nicholson reported that the board had gone over the proposed ordinance provided by the village’s attorney in closed session at the last meeting.
“We took out some items that seemed over the top, and are proposing a slightly simplified version for passage tonight,” Nicholson explained. “Those who want to keep chickens would be required to obtain a building permit, written permission from any neighbors within 100-feet of the proposed coop, submit a drawing, and obtain a one-year permit for $10, which would expire each year in January.”
If all these conditions are met, and the permit issued, Nicholson said four laying hens and no roosters would be allowed. He said that owners must maintain control of the chickens at all times.
Jerry Miller made a motion to approve the ordinance as presented, and it was seconded by Homer Arndt. The board unanimously adopted the ordinance on a roll-call vote.
Nicholson brought a situation with two parcels of property on North Clayton Road zoned industrial to the board’s attention. The properties had historically been sold to an individual who proposed to develop them for industrial purposes. When that development did not occur, the village was to have re-acquired the properties, but “we dropped the ball on that,” Nicholson said.
He explained the properties had recently been sold to Shannon Baker, who proposes to build a home there, across the road from his trucking business. He was not apprised of the zoning on the parcels at the time of the acquisition, and is now asking the board to re-zone the parcels as residential.
“If we do re-zone the parcels, the village will realize income from the parcel in the form of property taxes, and water and sewer utility payments,” Nicholson said.
Steve George and Vicki Campbell both seemed frustrated with the situation. George said the parcels are the only commercial/industrial properties left in that part of the village. Campbell said that she is never in favor of re-zoning because it sets a precedent.
“I am torn on this decision because Shannon Baker stands to lose either way,” Campbell said. “If we do re-zone the property, we need to make it clear in writing that the parcels are surrounded by commercial and industrial property, the Rod & Gun Club, and that there is no guarantee there won’t be noise or traffic at odd hours.”
Vicki Campbell moved, and Brad Pettit seconded a motion to approve re-zoning of the two parcels on North Clayton Road, with a clear agreement that Baker understands the neighboring properties are zoned industrial and they can’t complain about noise, etc. The board voted unanimously to approve the motion.
Road seal coating
Nicholson brought up the subject of needed maintenance on village roads, which he pointed out had not been done for 10 years.
“When we discussed proposals to seal cracks and seal coat the roads, the board didn’t have much appetite for the expensive crack-filling work,” Nicholson said. “However, I have gone out and inspected the roads, and there are huge cracks that are only going to get worse.”
Nicholson explained that if the board chose to pursue the strategy of “saving money for the project of seal coating,” at the rate of $10,000 per year, it would be six-and-one-half years before they had the money for the work. He proposed instead to pay for the seal coating work through a 10-year loan from People’s State Bank, in the amount of $181,567, at a 3.95 percent interest rate.
Wayne Jerrett, the contractor who submitted the seal-coating bid under consideration, was present at the meeting. He said that seal coating would fill 99.9 percent of the cracks on the roads. The roads included in the project are New Well Road, Norwegian Hollow Road, Tavern Road, Dull Road, North Clayton Road, West Third Street, East Third Street, Sun Bean Boulevard, Legion Drive/in front of the village shop, and Sunset Avenue.
Steve George moved, and Vicki Campbell seconded a motion to approve the loan and road work as proposed. The board voted unanimously for the motion by roll call vote.
In other business
In other business, the board:
• heard a complaint from Nancy Olson in public input about ‘no parking’ signs that had been placed in village clerk Kaitlynn Ott’s front yard
• heard from Kaitlynn Ott that the signs were there temporarily after an incident where an Old Oak Inn customer had driven into her front yard to park and endangered her three-year-old daughter, who was outside at the time
• heard from Old Oak Inn proprietor Homer Arndt that he has agreed to place orange cones in front of Ott’s home temporarily, and install a sign directing his patrons to the parking lot on the other side of the building near the kitchen, and have ‘no parking’ signs in Ott’s yard
• accepted a bid from Immense Impact LLC of Arlington, Texas, to create a new, expandable, website for the village at a cost of $914.95 to build the site, and a $565.95 annual subscription fee, using CDC funds• approved an estimated $5,000 repair to fix pump and motor issues with the village flail mower