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Village president finds deal on holiday lights
Soldiers Grove
SG Santa 2020
SANTA AND HIS HELPERS showed up in Soldiers Grove last Saturday with a little help from the fire department. Although masks abounded, youngsters were com-fortable on a cold windy day. Each child received a bag of goodies. There were a few photo opportunities with Santa and the gang and a few kids dropped off wish lists to Santa in a special mailbox provided for quick delivery.

SOLDIERS GROVE - Despite the challenges in celebration of the holidays, members of the community are moving ahead with the comfort of preparing to celebrate the holidays. People are out cutting Christmas trees, buying gifts for loved ones, and decorating their homes. 

The Village of Soldiers Grove is no exception. President Paul Nicholson reported to the board at their Thursday, Dec. 3 meeting that the Public Works employees had installed Christmas lights on village light poles, not once, but twice recently. This was because the village’s aging holiday decorations had many lights burned out, and were so old that replacement bulbs were no longer available.

In an enterprising fashion, Nicholson went online to research what kind of bargains might be available for replacement decorations. He reported to the board that he had found a huckuva’ deal in used decorations from the Town of Onalaska.

“There’s nothing I love so much as finding a bargain,” Nicholson said.

He was able to purchase 23 snowflake lights, and five wreath lights on the Wisconsin Surplus website. The retail value of the lights, new, is $17,920, and Nicholson was able to purchase them for only $997.90.

“I took the risk of buying them and coming to you to ask for reimbursement,” Nicholson said. “If you don’t want to buy them for the village, I will put them back online and no doubt make a nice profit. It’s your choice.”

The board quickly acted to approve the purchase. It was agreed that the village could use more of the lights, and it was suggested that Director of Public Works Brian Copus reach out directly to the Town of Onalaska to indicate that the village would purchase more used light fixtures from them in the future if available.

Continuing with the holiday celebration theme, Fire Chief Roger Olson reported that plans have been finalized to hold the department’s Christmas party at the American Legion, with Desperados Wonder Bar providing the food.

Paul Kinserdahl of the fire department reported that they had been able to secure a donation of apples to be given out in holiday goodie bags for children at the village’s drive-through Santa Claus in the park event. The event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m. Santa Claus will sit on a Soldiers Grove Fire Department engine, and masked and gloved ‘Santa’s helpers’ will hand out goodie bags to children in cars.

Kinserdahl also reported that the fire department is conducting a toy drive to provide holiday gifts for children from families in the community in need. He told the board that the Red Coats had voted to match any cash donations made dollar for dollar. The board voted to contribute $500 to the effort as well.

The fire department has also set up a ‘Letters to Santa’ mailbox in front of their building in Soldiers Grove for children to let Santa know what gift they would like to receive for Christmas. Letters must be placed in the mailbox before Wednesday, Dec. 16. The effort is intended to focus on local families in the Soldiers Grove Fire Department area of service.

Library report

Trustee Harrison Heilman reported that he had attended the most recent meeting of the Library Committee. He said a representative from the Southwest Libraries Consortium was present at that meeting, and had informed the committee that they had too many people on their Library Board.

According to village librarian Sarah DiPadova, who followed up by e-mail after the board meeting, Wisconsin Statute 43.54 states that a Village library board should consist of five members and no more than seven. With a five-member board, three must be village residents. With a seven-person board, five must be village residents. To get us into compliance, the board composition had to change at this time.” 

DiPadova said that the members who resigned include: Barbara McGlynn, Barbara Duke, Wade Dull, Lillian Lathrop, and Gereon Welhouse. 

“All of these members have been a wonderful support to the library, and we are grateful to each of them for their dedication,” DiPadova said. “Barbara McGlynn is an original founder of the library, and has served on the board for many years in her tireless efforts to establish this beloved library for everyone in the community to enjoy.”

Heilman also reported that the committee had voted to give DiPadova a 50-cent raise, and is moving ahead with plans to celebrate the library’s 50thanniversary in the summer of 2021. The celebration was originally planned for 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDC report

President Paul Nicholson shared a concern with the board that the CDC Committee had not met for over a year. He said that the committee really just serves as a go-between for citizens and the village board, and recommended that the board take responsibility for the committee back as has been done in the past.

“There has been an individual that has wanted to meet with the committee, and hasn’t been able to because no meetings have been scheduled,” Nicholson said.

The board voted unanimously to take over the functions of the CDC Committee, with Steve George making the motion, and Harrison Heilman seconding. 

Public Works report

Director of Public Works Brian Copus reported to the board that his team had been able to get sludge hauled from the sewer plant since the last time the board had met.

The topic of removing dead trees from the village cemetery was once again taken up by the board. Roger Olson indicated a willingness to take the project on and expressed a desire to complete the work before the snow flies. He estimated the cost of removing the 50-60 dead trees at $5,000 with time and materials. The board voted unanimously to approve Roger Olson’s estimate for the work.

Harrison Heilman raised the topic of estimates for the work to install the larger new water meters the village had obtained with CARES Act funding.

“There’s really no way to bid the work,” Copus told the board. “It will take as long as it takes, and each situation is a little bit different.”

Copus said that Heath, who has worked for the village in the past, was asking for $75 per hour, $40 per hour for help, and $25 per hour if it is just a ‘gopher’ job. The board voted unanimously to approve him doing the work.

New ordinance

President Nicholson reported on an evolving situation with a camper in the village park. It appears that the camper is owned by an individual from LaCrosse, who is believed to be homeless. That person’s practice is to park the camper, pay a little, and then stop paying until they are forced to move.

“I called in thesSheriff’s department to attempt to secure their assistance in getting the camper removed,” Nicholson reported. “They told me that they would not assist the village with this.”

Nicholson recommended adoption of a new ‘Trespassing and Public Campground’ ordinance.

“If we adopt this ordinance, then I believe the Sheriff’s Department will be obligated to assist us,” Nicholson said. “Because  it is something of a rental agreement situation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the village is prohibited from simply shutting the power off.”

The board voted unanimously, by roll call vote, to adopt the ordinance.

Nicholson said that he plans to lead the board, over the winter, in a process of upgrading the village’s procedures for renting the campsites. He said the intended result will be for the village to obtain more information about people renting campsites.

In other business

In other business, the board:

• agreed to continue discussions of a job description and pay for a third position on the Public Works team

• heard that the DOT project to upgrade Highway 131, between the bridge and Highway 61, is currently scheduled for as early as 2025

• approved paying off the remaining amount on the loan to make repairs following the 2018 flood, in the amount of $27,558

• approved staff Christmas bonuses of $125 each

• voted to approve a liquor license for the Tobacco Warehouse, with Harrison Heilman abstaining

• voted to approve a server license for Andreas Transo

• agreed to negotiate with Delta-3 Engineering regarding the price for their assisting the village with a sewer rates adjustment.