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Its budgets, beavers and fire department in Soldiers Grove
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - It’s that budget time of year again, and the Soldiers Grove Village Board was in good shape to seek public input and pass their 2018 budget at their meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Between their October and December meetings, the board had met to run the numbers, determine revenues and expenses and present a budget for review and approval.

The 2018 budget calls for a local tax levy in the amount of $25,649, with total general revenues of $431,387 and total expenditures from the general fund of $431,387.

Revenue from the village water system will be $109,688, expenses for the water utility are budgeted at $107,075.

The sewer utility is budgeted to have $145,350 in revenue and $141,595 in expenses.

The budget includes increases in fees for park shelter rent and building permits, and may include an increase in the garbage pick-up fee.

The cost of shelter rent will rise from $75 to $100, and the cost of a building permit will increase from $10 plus $1 for every $1,000 worth of work, to $25 plus $10 for every $1,000 worth of work. If the village learns in February that the charge for garbage pick-up is increasing, then there will also be an increase in the pick-up fee for village residents.

The budget was unanimously approved by the board after hearing citizen input.

Several citizens made comments about the proposed budget in the public comment period. Soldiers Grove Village Librarian Cele Wolf urged the board to maintain the village’s level of funding to the library in 2018.

“The county’s level of funding for the library is tied to the village’s,” Wolf said. “I won’t be around forever, and employee costs, especially health insurance costs, seem to only go up.”

Jerry and Liz Quebe attended the meeting and provided the board with a report on the Driftless Art Festival and its economic impact on the area. The Quebes thanked the board for their ongoing support for the event.

The Quebes pointed out that the 2017 event had drawn a record 5,600 attendees from 255 locations in 21 states. Of participant surveys, 84 percent stated that attending the festival was the primary purpose of their trip. Total on-site expenditures at the festival were over $160,000, and artist sales were $140,000.

The event, the Quebes explained, benefits local school art programs and showcases student work. An auction of the 2016 prize-winning pieces raised $1,025 for school art programs, with a total of $10,835 having been raised since the festival began. Kids Art drew entries from 11 area school districts.

Food vendors at the event grossed over $19,000, and local musicians provided entertainment throughout the event.

Using Wisconsin Department of Tourism guidelines, the art festival contributed $420,000 to regional businesses, spending tourism dollars on lodging, dining, shopping and services.

Fire department

Soldiers Grove Fire Chief Ben Clason reported to the board that the ‘Redcoats,’ the name volunteer fire fighters have given themselves, were unanimously recommending purchase of an automated external defibrillator (AED) device, to be housed in the village hall building.

An AED is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.

“There is only one in our immediate area, located at North Crawford Schools, and we feel strongly that this lifesaving device would be of benefit to our community,” Clason said.

Clason explained that the Redcoats had voted to pay the initial purchase price for the device of $1,199 if the village and/or other private entities would agree to help pay for the costs of ongoing maintenance.

The device comes with a wall cabinet, sign and an alarm that sounds when the cabinet is opened. It also comes with an eight-year warranty.

Clason detailed the various maintenance costs, which would occur on a two and four-year basis. He recommends having on hand two pairs each of adult and pediatric pads. Having two pairs means that if one is used, there is another on-hand in case there is another emergency before a new set is ordered.

The pads are good for two years, and would cost $323 at current prices to replace. The battery comes with a four-year warranty, and would cost $169 every four years to replace, meaning that every fourth year, maintenance would cost $492.

The board agreed to pay for part or all of the expense of ongoing maintenance of the device.

Clason went on to report that the Fire Department Christmas Party would take place on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Soldiers Grove American Legion building, with hors d’oeuvres and a meal at 7 p.m. He stated that all village board members and their spouses were invited.

Clason reported that the department had replaced their halogen bar as it had been borrowed and damaged by the village. He reported that if there were no objections, the department was giving the damaged unit to the village for them to use.

“We are going to start getting packages in at the village office from purchases made with funds from the DNR grant,” Clason said. “Please be sure to verify the contents match the packing list before signing for the boxes.”

There was discussion of fire department pay and expenses. The department had voted in 2017 to raise per-call pay for department volunteers from $8 to $10, and did not realize that this change had to be approved and incorporated into the bylaws.

The board agreed that they would put this item on the agenda for the January meeting, and would craft a motion that made the change retroactive to the beginning of 2017.

Clason reported that in pursuing the question of whether the village should bill property owners for services provided by the department, he has reached out to village corporate counsel Jacob Menn several times and received no response back.

The issue is whether the village should try to proceed in capturing funds available through property owners insurance for fire protection services rendered, and what would it mean, from a legal standpoint, to have ‘attempted to collect the debt.’

The board agreed to contact Menn and make clear that Clason is authorized to contact him on the village’s behalf.

Lastly, Clason reported that the Soldiers Grove Fire Department had elected their officers for 2018. Clason will remain Fire Chief, Roger Olson will be the Second Assistant, Shayne Chapman has relieved Brian Copus, and Angela Visgar has taken on the role of Secretary.

Battling beavers

Soldiers Grove Village Department of Public Works Director Brian Copus reported to the board that he hoped to complete some needed maintenance on some village roads before the snow flies.

He reported that his crew had been working on New Well Road, but needed a mower to complete some additional work on Helgerson Ridge Road. The board agreed to rent a mower from the Town of Clayton for the approximately 10 hours of work at $75 per hour.

Copus reported that the bills from Davy Engineering for the work around the village’s phosphorous problem are continuing to come in.

Last, Copus reported that the village is once again dealing with problems associated with beavers and beaver dams. He reported that the department had called Digger Don recently to destroy several dams, only to see them rebuilt virtually overnight. The dams, located behind the storage units, had caused erosion and flooding.

Village President Steve George reported seeing “dozens” of beavers swimming in the creek when he went down to inspect the problem along with several trappers from the Viola area.

“The beavers destroyed the maple trees that had been planted next to Sannes Skogdalen to help prevent further erosion of the creek bank,” George reported. “They just got the last one yesterday.”

George reported that the trappers had gotten between four and six beavers so far, and there were still traps in the water.

In other business the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• agreed to notify the owner of an abandoned, rodent-infested building with shot-out windows on Rumpus Ridge that under section three of the village’s Chapter 145 nuisance ordinance, the village would require the owner to either take the property down at his own expense or the village would have it done and bill him for it—the board agreed to have the property inspected, pursuant to taking action in Crawford County Circuit Court;

• heard in the CDC report that payments were being made on both of the village’s outstanding loans, and that two properties remained in arrears on second quarter room tax and no third quarter payments had been received;

• agreed to make a $100 donation to having Santa Claus in the village;

• approved a year-end audit contract with the same provider for a fee increase of $400;

• approved employee bonuses equal to those given in 2016.