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Soldiers Grove Board discusses recovery, development and art festival
SG sign
THE ORIGINS OF SOLDIERS GROVE is the story told on this sign, toppled for now, by the flood waters which once again ravaged the old downtown area.

SOLDIERS GROVE - Flood recovery, economic development, and the Driftless Area Art Festival were topics at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Soldiers Grove Village Board on Thursday, Sept. 6.

The old downtown area of Soldiers Grove looked like a bomb had exploded after the floodwaters had finally receded on Saturday, Sept. 8. The parking lot of the Lion’s Shelter was a tumbled mass of slabs of displaced asphalt, and the gazebo and fences around the skate board park and tennis courts were mangled, and covered in mud and debris. Perhaps most poignant of all, the sign that tells the history of the village lays toppled on its back in the midst of the wreckage.

Despite the fact that the 2018 floodwaters got into places that had previously escaped flooding, such as the ‘Flat’ above the horse arena, there’s no question looking at the devastation in the old downtown area, that it could have, and has been in the past, much worse.

Clean up

“We’re waiting for things to dry out again,” Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works Brian Copus reported. “If it wasn’t for the blacktop and the fencing, it wouldn’t be bad at all. It’s definitely not as bad as 2008.”

Copus told the board that on Tuesday before the flood he had moved the picnic tables into the Lion’s Shelter and another location where it doesn’t flood.

“Guess what?” Copus said. “This year that area got flooded.”

Village trustee Vicki Campbell questioned whether the village needs to rebuild the skateboard park, and at minimum, questioned whether the village needs to replace the fences around it and the tennis courts.

“No one uses the skateboard park,” Campbell said.

“Oh, yes they do use it,” citizen attendee Diane Coleman replied.

Repairs and records

Trustee Shayne Chapman told the board that village president Steve George had taken lots of photos to document the damages for FEMA.

“We’re waiting for the county emergency management meeting to submit our application to FEMA,” village clerk Tammy Kepler reported. “Brian Copus has already submitted a preliminary report to Crawford County Emergency Management Director Jim Hackett.”

“I asked Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock if they will be able to assist us with cleaning up the Lion’s Shelter parking lot,” Chapman said. “The commissioner told me that they would help, and would at least try to get it back to gravel before the snow flies this year.”

Copus said his crew was doing what they could with their equipment, but would need a bigger bulldozer and front end loader to get at the bigger stuff.

“Everything down there with electricity will also need to be evaluated, and repaired if necessary,” Copus added. “Once we get the fences out of there and the parking lot cleaned up, it will look a lot better.”

Trustee Vicki Campbell reported that her son, Ryan Campbell, who now owns the gas station, had started a GoFundMe site for flood relief donations. He has raised $5,600, and $5,300–less fees charged by the website provider will be divided equally between Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove.

“If it’s alright, I’ll tell him to give the funds to the fire departments in each town to distribute,” Campbell said. “Ryan also donated 15 cases of water for people working in the clean up efforts.”

Chapman commended Soldiers Grove Fire Chief Roger Olson for his work going door-to-door to distribute water and cleaning supplies to village residents impacted by the flood.

“We really appreciate all the hard work of the fire department over the last few weeks,” trustee Paul Nicholson said.

The board voted to give the funds raised by Ryan Campbell to the two fire departments for distribution.

Economic development

Cynthia Olmstead of Driftless Brewing attended the board meeting to report a flood-related problem, and ask for the village’s support in addressing it.

“It’s ironic, after all the work the village did to relocate up here where it’s high and dry, that we would have a flood or excessive rainfall issue to report,” Olmstead said. “However, the problem is with the parking lot and the drains, and that work will need to be done on village property.”

Olmstead explained that extreme rain events, like the one on Tuesday, Sept. 4, cause water to flow into the back door of the Brewery. This location is where they are about to place their new $25-30,000 cooler.

“When the water started coming in the door last Tuesday, Chris and I stayed late to try to do what we could to prevent the water from coming in,” Olmstead explained. “We can do some little things, but ultimately we need to get this fixed.”

Olmstead requested that the village have their engineer look at the capacity of the drain near their back door, and evaluate the configuration of the parking lot to see what could be done to prevent the problem.

“The best solution would likely involve tearing up the parking lot,” Copus said.

“Perhaps the problem could be solved by installing a two-inch lip at the door,” Chapman suggested. “Why don’t you have your engineer look at it, and then perhaps the village could share the cost of the repair with the brewery.”

Olmstead agreed to adopt this approach, and get back to the board.

Another issue that has arisen with the Brewery renovation project is the size of their water connection.

“The project is going very well,” Olmstead reported. “We just poured the concrete today and have submitted our first report for the grant. But in the course of the work, we’ve discovered that the equipment we’re installing requires an upgrade to a two-inch connection to the main versus the current one-and-one-quarter-inch connection.”

Olmstead reported that her research has revealed that the village ordinances stipulate that the business owner must pay for the upgrade, but the village will maintain it going forward.

“We could get an estimate for the work, but since it is on village property and there are utilities everywhere, we’d prefer you to investigate how this will be done,” Olmstead said. “We would prefer that the village contract for the boring, and we will pay for it.”

Copus told the Board that similar work had been done for the warehouse where trustee Harrison Heilman lives. He added that the village would also need to order a two-inch connection meter.

The board passed a resolution approving doing the work needed to hook up the larger connection on village property.

Olmstead also requested that the expense of upgrading the connection be added to the Brewery’s CDC loan amount.

“When we have the estimate for doing the work, then CDC will hold a meeting,” CDC Committee Chairman Laurel Hestetune said. “We have money available in the CDC loan account.”

In his report to the board, Hestetune told them that the balance in the village’s money market account is $66,395; and the checking account, $303. He also reported that the two outstanding loans are current on their balances.

“Both Country Gardens and the Roth House are currently behind on their second quarter room tax,” Hestetune said. “The Old Oak Inn is behind on both first and second quarter.”

Hestetune also reported that the CDC Committee had approved a proposal for a $25,000 loan for Solar Meats, the new meat locker business that is going into the old creamery building formerly owned by Guy Nelson.

“They will have six months interest free, and then after that will pay $400-$500 per month,” Hestetune said. “The business hopes to open up this November.”

The board approved the loan to Solar Meats as recommended by the CDC Committee.

Trustee Vicki Campbell reminded the board that they would need to provide the traditional donation to the Driftless Area Art Festival out of the room tax dollars.

Art Festival

Representatives of the Driftless Area Art Festival attended the board meeting to report that for the 2018 festival, they had decided to move to the Crawford County Fairgrounds.

“In light of the severity of flood damage in the old downtown area, we have decided we need to move this year’s event to the fairgrounds,” Driftless Area Art Festival Co-Chair Phil Tegen told the board. “However, we are 100 percent committed to returning to Soldiers Grove in 2019.”

Former festival co-chair Jerry Quebe emphasized to the board that the festival is still eager to have board members attend this year’s VIP reception.

“You can also cancel the security that you’ve contracted for,” Tegen said. “We’ve had to hire our own security now at the fairgrounds.”

In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• heard a complaint from a village resident about noise from the sewer plant’s blower motor;

• heard from Copus that Davy Engineering is pursuing a grant to eliminate manholes and have them pressurized. “We went to 445,000 gallons with one of the pumps last Wednesday.”

• accepted a bid from Mark Swiggum for $5,495 to fix the door on the public works shop door, including installation of a jack shaft opener;

• approved Josh Byl working part time at least through the winter to replace Rick Salmon;

• approved adding garbage fees onto commercial/public authority properties;

• went into closed session to discuss specific personnel problems, pursuant to Wis. State Stat. 19.85(1)(f), which if discussed in public, would be likely to have substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of the person. Village Clerk Tammy Kepler reported that as of Monday, September 10, as regards the matter, “At the moment, on the advice of legal counsel, no information can be given.”