SOLDIERS GROVE - Creating a uniform approach for events in the Soldiers Grove Village Park, and the village’s dog ordinance were big topics at the Soldiers Grove board meeting on Thursday, August 8.
Phil Tegan provided an update to the board about plans for the Driftless Area Art Festival, coming up September 21-22.
“We’re very happy to be coming back to Soldiers Grove this year God-willing and the creek don’t rise,” Tegan said. “We are hoping to set up the event a day earlier this year, and hope for the village’s support with mowing a day earlier and also with police protection.”
The rest of the public input portion of the agenda was lively with input from Diane Coleman and Nancy Olson. First up for the two was the article that had appeared in the Independent-Scout about the last board meeting. At that meeting, the board had had extensive discussion about the then-upcoming ‘Pulling for Preston’ event. Event organizer Guy Nelson was not able to attend that meeting.
“I don’t understand why, according to the newspaper article, there were so many complaints about Guy Nelson and the Pulling for Preston event,” Coleman said. “Guy’s event brings in a lot to this town.”
Paul Nicholson, who had chaired the last board meeting when President Steve George was absent, stated that in his perception the last meeting had not been a “negative meeting.”
“We don’t have any control over what is written in the newspaper,” Nicholson said. “It was me that was reporting on my conversations about the contract with Guy for Pulling for Preston. Guy had agreed to pay the $600 to rent the whole park a year ago, and then later made an alternative proposal to the village that involved paying only for campsites that were actually used.”
Nancy Olson asked Nicholson if the Driftless Area Art Festival was being treated equally with Pulling for Preston.
“The BMW Motorcycle Club pays $600 to rent the whole park, but at the art festival the campers and not the festival pay for campsites,” Nicholson replied. “The Parks & Recreation Committee of the board, which I chair, will be updating our policy with regards to rental of the park, and in the future there won’t be any negotiation about the price of rental.”
Nancy Olson brought up village resident’s concerns about how village resident Cheryl Allen’s dog had bitten village resident Kay Herbst, resulting in Herbst receiving 13 stitches.
“People in the village want to know where the dog is now, and they don’t feel safe walking down there,” Olson said. “The dog was not on a leash and I thought the village’s dog ordinance requires that all dogs be under control.”
President Steve George reported that the incident has been turned over to Crawford County Animal Control Officer Chrissy Reynolds.
“At this point, the village has no control over what is going to happen,” George said. “By law, a dog who bites someone has to be tested for rabies and held for 10 days – we assume that that is what is happening in this situation.”
Nancy Olson emphasized that residents are scared to walk on the roads near Allen’s home because they don’t know if the dog is there, and that the village should find out where the dog is now and consider warning residents and campers in the village.
“On Monday, we can call the county to inquire what the status of this is and about where the dog is now,” George said. “Cheryl Allen is in violation of the village ordinance and will be fined for it. We can also put out a notice from the village reminding residents about our dog ordinance, and how dogs must be under control at all times.”
Pulling for Preston
Guy and Tammy Nelson attended the meeting to discuss the recent Pulling for Preston event, and some of the feedback they had received from members of the community about how the negotiations with the village had been handled.
“Originally, I was so upset I was going to come to this meeting and rant and rave,” Guy Nelson said. “I’ve calmed down now, and I just want to apologize for not being present at the last meeting where the contract with the village for Pulling for Preston was discussed.”
Nelson stated that after receiving multiple phone calls about the article in the Independent-Scout, he had had to read the article twice to fully grasp what the article had reported about what had been said at that meeting.
“I don’t understand what people in this area think about Pulling for Preston,” Guy Nelson said. “I think that the event is a benefit for the village.”
He said that he was happy to have brought the event back to Soldiers Grove this year because “the village is my home, and because of that rock in the park commemorating my son Preston.
“Soldiers Grove is where my roots and my late son Preston’s roots are,” Guy Nelson said. “For us to be treated differently than other groups who are holding events is asinime, and the village does not have a clear and consistent policy.”
Guy Nelson stated that his issue isn’t with paying the $600 to rent the park per se.
“The rental amount of $600 is actually quite cheap,” Nelson said. “The problem I have is that we are treated differently than other groups that rent the park. Pulling for Preston is a one-day event, and the Driftless Area Art Festival is a two-day event. They make a donation to the village, but my restaurant, Country Gardens, donates our room tax to the village.
Guy Nelson said that he had found the comments as reported in the Independent-Scout to be “hurtful.” For instance, he mentioned, the comments about making sure that he paid for the Fire Department to provide water for the event – “that was disrespectful.”
“It’s true that I paid more for the venue at the Crawford County Fairgrounds last year,” Guy Nelson said. “However, that venue is worth more, and I was able to put up a fence and charge $20 at the gate.”
Guy Nelson said that the village had done a great job with getting the park ready for the event, but that it was difficult for him to get help from the village in preparing. He specifically mentioned an issue with getting the bleachers at the ball field washed off after the recent flooding to prepare for the softball tournament.
“The board needs to think about what they are saying in these meetings, because the things that they say will wind up in the paper,” Guy Nelson said. “Negativity does not reflect well on our village, and the board should be trying to help Pulling for Preston grow.”
Nelson reported that he has been running the event at a loss many of the years he has held it. In the second year, the loss was $12,500. Last year, his gross revenue was $50,000 but he had a $15,000 loss. This year, his loss was $11,672.11, according to a report prepared by Tammy Nelson.
“As far as reserving the park for next year, I’m going to need a little more time,” Guy Nelson said. “I can’t keep running this event at a loss, and I will know in the next few week’s if I am going to be able to recruit some major sponsors for the event.”
Baker Creek erosion
Village of Soldiers Grove President Steve George reported on the problems with erosion on Baker Creek that the village is experiencing. George reported that he had been completely unable to make contact with anyone in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in Crawford County.
“The streambank behind the trailer court is being undercut, the abutments under the walking bridge are eroding, and multiple people, including me, have had water and debris in our yards,” George explained. “The DNR has given us permission to fix it, but there is no money to do the repairs.”
George said he had contacted the WDNR in LaCrosse County and was told that there was funding available for streambank restoration. When I asked for assistance in securing the funding, I was directed back to the same phone number that I had previously called. Essentially, I am told, that the DNR position in Crawford County that would take care of requests like ours remains vacant.
Village Trustee Harrison Heilman suggested that George reach out to State Senator Jennifer Shilling and State Representative Loren Oldenburg to ask for their assistance.
“We can’t wait to repair the walk bridge or we’ll have a situation where someone could be hurt,” George said. “I have asked for an estimate from Digger Don, and if the estimate seems reasonable, I’d like to move ahead with that repair as soon as possible.”
The board moved to approve the expense of having the eroded abutments to the rock bridge repaired as soon as possible by Digger Don if the estimate seems reasonable to Steve George.
In other business, the board:
• heard a request from Jerry Moran to purchase land from the village to allow him to construct a two-and-one-half car garage before the snow flies this year;
• heard that the money market account contains $47,664.53; the checking account contains $303.46; and all second quarter room tax payments are delinquent;• heard that one of the recipients of a loan from the village had made a lump sum payment, and payments on the other two loans are current.