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Soldiers Grove Village Board had a very busy meeting
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - Although recently it may not have seemed very spring-like, the Village of Soldiers Grove really sprang into action at their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, April 5. Economic development, capital acquisitions for the fire department, and cleaning up residual problems from the relocation of the village from the old downtown dominated the board’s agenda.

Prior to the meeting of the board, a meeting of the Village’s Planning Commission was held to hear input about two proposed economic development intiatives. Those two initiatives were a proposed development of a storage locker business on the Strang property, located in the parking lot area in front of the Village’s office, and a proposed meat slaughter plant and retail store front in the old Swiss Valley plant, currently owned by Guy Nelson, located on the other side of Highway 61 from the Solar Village.

Economic development

The Planning Commission of the Village of Soldiers Grove includes Laurel Hestetune, Supervisor Roy Davidson, Village President Steve George, Don Olson and Bob Froiseth.

At the Planning Commission meeting held prior to the board meeting, Commission members heard input on the proposed meat slaughtering plant from Shawn Welte of Davy Engineering; and Mike Mueller, Rich Sitarski and Duane Johannes of Solarcity Locker LLC.

Mueller and Sitarski are both member-owners of the newly formed pastured pork Back to the Land Cooperative, and Johannes is an experienced butcher that will be in charge of slaughtering, cutting and processing operations at the plant. Mueller will be the General Manager, taking and preparing customer orders.

Sitarski reports that if everything lines up, the group hopes to start operations in August. He also reports that the group is researching what kind of financing it would take to open the retail storefront side of the building, and what options for assistance are available to them.

“Initially the business will be dedicated to custom slaughter for multiple species,” Sitarski explained. “This isn’t strictly speaking related to the pastured pork cooperative, and the Co-op doesn’t have a brand it plans to market at this time.”

The LLC partner’s vision for the business is to provide Southwest Wisconsin and the surrounding area with a slaughter and butcher shop facility that is accessible to local farmers. “We will be state inspected, with CIS inspection, which will allow finished product coming out of the facility to be sold across the state line,” Sitarski reported. “Our business will also be dedicated to the highest standards of animal welfare, for a low stress, high quality meat, and the most humane experience possible for the animals.

The Commission specifically invited Welte to the meeting to address concerns about the locker business’ potential for “loading” into the wastewater treatment plant. Welte listed the two main concerns being blood capture, and the kinds of chemicals used in the operation.

“Soldiers Grove already has phosphorous problems at their wastewater treatment facility,” Welte reminded the Commission. “Anything that happens at the plant needs to not increase those problems.”

Mueller responded that the group is planning a system of production in the plant that will be designed to minimize water use, and to work with chemical company representatives to select the most environmentally friendly chemicals possible.

“We’re in the process of researching what our likely levels of water use will be,” Sitarski reported. “We already know that it will be similar to or less than the use, for instance, by the car wash, and we are also looking into organic certification which would virtually eliminate any phosphorous output from the plant.”

“The biggest things to be concerned about are the blood capture, and the chemicals in any effluent,” Welte said. “We are particularly concerned about any potential use of quaternary ammonium, a biocide that is destructive to good bacteria, which when used actually gets into the treatment system and works against the strategies used there.”

Johannes explained that it is the group’s intention to capture all of the blood and offal, which will then be sold to a rendering plant, which will pick it up.

Welte emphasized that there is a grease trap in the building, and the Village is very concerned about the group’s maintenance of that feature.

Business welcomed

“I am committed to working with Solarcity Locker LLC to locate your business in our community,” Nelson told the business owners present. “If I can’t put you in my building, then I’ll work to get you into another building in town.”

Supervisor Shayne Chapman, also present at the Plan Commission meeting said, “We want to work with you, and it sounds to me like you’re on top of it.”

The group was repeatedly queried about their plans to open a retail storefront. There was even some joking back and forth with Cynthia Olmstead from Driftless Brewing about how the Village would be able to enjoy locally produced “brats and beer.”

“We are definitely looking at opening up a retail store front,” Johannes told the Commission. “We are hoping to begin operations in August if all goes according to plan.”

Board action

Later, when the entire Village Board was in session, it was reported that the Planning Commission recommended approval of Solarcity Locker LLC to operate a meat slaughtering business in the old Swiss Valley plant.

Supervisor Vicki Campbell answered a question the LLC owners had about the possibility of receiving support from the CDC, similar to the support offered to Driftless Brewing.

“If the CDC is going to provide your business with assistance, first you will need to be able to show them a financial and business plan,” Campbell explained. “Then the board would have to discuss, based on seeing that information, if they wanted to offer an agreement of paying interest only for a year, as they did for the brewery.”

Campbell also pointed out that the group would need to secure a building permit from the state for any major structural changes, or to install, for instance, a bathroom where there had previously been an office.

On a roll call vote, the board unanimously approved the group’s application to operate a meat slaughter business in the building.

Regarding the application by Ryan and Krystal Campbell to locate a storage locker business on the site of the Strang property, the Plan Commission recommendation was not to approve the application.

“I will keep the conversation open with Ryan, and we’ll work to find another option for a storage locker business,” said Jim Bowman of Driftless Development.

Old town clean up

Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works Brian Copus, and Public Works employee Ben Lathrop reported to the Board about the results of a recent use of a loaned sewer camera in the sewer mains located in the old downtown area of Soldiers Grove.

“We found that there is about five inches of gravel down there in our ten inch tubes, probably deposited during flooding events,” Copus told the Board. “That sand and gravel is getting into the motors in our sewer pumps and isn’t doing them any good.”

Copus and Lathrop also told the Board that there are about 30 old sewer laterals in the old part of town, under the Gazebo area, that were never capped out in the relocation process.

“Those uncapped laterals are feeding ground water into our system that doesn’t need to be there,” Lathrop explained. “They may also be a contributing factor in the Village’s phosphorous problem.”

Copus requested Board approval for a plan outlined to “jet out” the clogged sewer system pipes to remove the accumulated gravel and sand. This task would be accomplished by using a new, state-of-the-art piece of equipment from a company in Richland Center for the fee of $225 per hour for between eight to 16 hours. The fee encompasses $125 per hour for the equipment, plus two employees at $50 per hour. This would be a maximum of $3,600 for 16 hours.

Regarding the section with the uncapped laterals, Lathrop reported that he has the card of a company that does lining of old sections of sewer systems, which is a more cost effective option than digging and capping the old laterals which may be crushed or in an unknown condition of damage and deterioration. The process, which essentially creates a ‘pipe within a pipe,’ is known as a ‘cured-in-place-pipeline.’

“Shouldn’t we get an estimate on the lining, and get that lined up so that we don’t spend the money on the jetting, get another flood, and then have all that money go for naught,” Campbell questioned.

Lathrop responded that once the system is jetted, the new manhole covers with the watertight lids would be installed at the same time to prevent recurrence of the problem of gravel and sand getting into the pipes. He said that then, the liners could be installed at a later time, with the company wanting to jet the area again before installation. He pointed out that getting rid of the bulk of the debris before that would likely save the Village money in the expense of having the liner installed.

The Board voted to move ahead with the jetting of the pipes, and instructed Copus and Lathrop to secure a bid for having the liner installed.

Fire department report

Fire Chief Ben Clason reported that two new members are joining the  volunteer fire team, and that the final work on the department’s new brush truck was scheduled to be completed on April 13.

The Board questioned Clason closely about what the brush truck is costing the village as compared to the amount that was budgeted and approved by the Board.

“Some things on the truck have been more expensive than anticipated, such as the lights which cost $5,000 instead of $2,500,” Clason said. “The whole thing is currently $7,600 over budget, but when the DNR grant comes through, then the whole project will actually come in below the estimated amount of $66,000.”

Clason reported to the Board that fire department members are experiencing the need to pay for an increasing number of trainings out-of-pocket, and then seek reimbursement. Clason pointed out that this can be a financial hardship for department members, and asked the Board to consider giving the department a Village debit card.

“We are going to be required to undergo ALICE training at $24 apiece, and we will also be asked to participate in the active shooter training the Sheriff’s Department has planned for later in the month at North Crawford,” Clason said. “This creates a situation for volunteer fire fighters where the money to pay for those trainings is not in their pockets while they wait for reimbursement.”

Citing historic problems with providing employees with debit cards, the Board tabled a decision on the request for further consideration and consultation with the Village’s attorney and accountant.

Last, Clason reported that the Fire Department would hold a Pancake Supper fundraising event at the American Legion in Soldiers Grove on May 19, 4-7 p.m. He reported that there would be a basket raffle, and a free raffle aimed at children, and that children of members would be excluded.

In other business:

Vicki Campbell provided the CDC report, and announced that she is resigning from her position as secretary/treasurer of the CDC effective immediately.

The Board requested to see itemized estimates for work to repair the electrical system in the firehouse.

The Board agreed to purchase a new diesel lawn mower for $10,800.

The Board agreed to spend $3,900 to repair a sidewalk in front of the People’s State Bank at the request of Joe Friar, because customers had tripped on the cracked and broken pavement. The bank and the village will split the cost of the repair. In addition, the Village will spend $450 to repair a broken and cracked stretch of sidewalk between the Village office and the brewery.