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Soldiers Grove Board takes up utilities’ issues
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - The biggest news coming out of the Soldiers Grove Village Board meeting, held on Thursday, Oct. 3, relates to the sewer and water utilities. Water rates will go up, and the DNR has ordered the village to cease use of their sewage drying beds, which leaves the village uncertain what increased expenses they may expect.

In the permit pre-renewal for the village’s wastewater treatment plant, the DNR has ordered the village to clean out their sewage drying beds and discontinue their use by October 15.

The DNR’s communication to the village read:

“The drying beds are not provided with an impervious layer or liner and therefore do not conform to current design requirements. The Village is required to cease discharging sludge to the drying beds by October 15, 2019.”

The village’s sewer plant is about 50 years old, and using drying beds,” according to Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works Brian Copus “is simply an old technology that nobody else uses anymore.” 

Copus said most villages with comparable plants haul liquid, store it, and then spread and incorporate it when weather permits. Any material removed in the winter months, for instance, would have to be stored.

The drying beds are three, walled, concrete pads, with a sand base. The plant’s sewage is pumped into the beds, the water goes back into the plant, and the solids settle out on the surface of the sand.

“No one at the village really understands yet what this is going to cost us or what the specific logistics will wind up being,” Copus said. “I could always get through the winter just using the drying beds, and then look at hauling and incorporating the dried solids once winter was over.”

The total capacity of the plant is 25,000 gallons, and it will cost the village five cents per gallon to haul the liquid sewage, which according to Copus, will likely need to be done at least twice per year. That’s a possible maximum cost of $2,500, and then there would be storage costs on top of that.

“I could always take care of the whole thing for about $1,000 per year,” Copus said. “Perhaps if things work out with a shared use plant for Soldiers Grove, Gays Mills and North Crawford, things will look better for the village.”

Copus reported that before the beds can be cleaned out and the manure spread, the solids have to be tested. He said that the soonest they can get an appointment at the lab is October 28. He says he has already let the DNR know that the village will not be able to make the October 15 deadline.

In addition, Copus reported, the village will need to fix the driveway and the hookups, and contract with Crane Engineering to have the system re-piped.

2020 sewer rates

The village board also voted to increase sewer rates for 2020 by three percent. As Supervisor Vicki Campbell noted, “we really don’t have any other choice.”

This came out of the audit presentation for the year ending December 31, 2017, given to the board at their November 8, 2018 meeting. In the report the following was noted.

“The village’s enterprise funds – water and sewer – both experienced a negative net position change, for a total of $2,530 down for water and $45,038 down for sewer. Both have experienced a downward trend between 2012 and 2017.”

The auditor’s comment was that the utilities have undertaken capital projects and have not had full rate adjustments for some time. They recommended that “consideration be given to filing a rate increase application with the Public Service Commission that would allow the water utility to earn its allowed rate of return, and the sewer fund should look at a more significant rate increase than in prior years.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

• heard that the streetlight near Laurel Hestetune’s house has been “very dark.” Tammy will report the problem to Alliant Energy

• voted unanimously not to pay an invoice for $720 from B&M Technical Service-Response for service on problematic pumps for the chemical feed for the sewer

• heard that payments on loans from Driftless Brewing Company and Solar Meats are current, and that Country Gardens is delinquent on second quarter room tax, and Old Oak Inn is delinquent on first and second quarter

• heard that the village has the tubes for the repairs on Yankee Town Road, and is waiting for the county to be available to do the work

• agreed to have Digger Don place gravel on the abutments of the trailer park walk bridge after the threat of additional flooding has lessened

• denied a conditional use permit to Shelley Strait for construction of storage units in the residential district because it is not a commercial area

• discussed the parking of semi trailers in the old downtown area, and agreed that the village ordinance prohibits vehicles from being parked in that area for more than 48 hours. The board agreed that semi drivers should be encouraged to explore alternative parking in the area

• set the Halloween Trick-or-Treat hours for Thursday, Oct. 31, from 4-7 p.m.

• approved a picnic license for the Big Buck Rod & Gun Club.