Sewer/water projects looming, reconstruction needed

ELLSWORTH – It’s no secret sewer and water upgrades are needed in Ellsworth, which is why at the Jan. 3 Ellsworth Village Board meeting, Jon Strand of CBS Squared spoke about a proposed Safe Drinking Water Loan Program application for a sewer and water surveying reconstruction project on Grant and Piety streets.

The area in question stretches along Grant Street from Main to Cairns and along Piety Street from Main to Humble Avenue. Many areas have 4-inch water mains and depending upon their age, are joined with lead joints.

“There are quite a few galvanized water services in the project that are commonly connected to water mains with a lead coupling,” Strand said.

The Piety portion also includes part of Grant, Woodworth and Strickland streets where there are undersized water mains in that area.

Strand said sanitary sewer has been videoed in both project areas and videos show numerous cracks in the pipes, misaligned joints, sags that collect debris and even missing portions.

“The other issue with clay pipe that is maybe even more important … there is a lot of places where groundwater is being collected in your sanitary sewer system,” Strand said.

This means more chemicals are used at the sewer treatment plant. Installing PVC pipes with gasketed joints would save the village a lot of money long-term, he added. The sewer reconstruction stretches toward the former junior high at 254 S. Chestnut St., which the village purchased Aug. 1, and will connect to a future project there.

CBS Squared calculated a preliminary cost estimate in order to apply for grants, which they listed at $5,366,863.42.

“Because you’re digging up both water and sewer up to the property lines, the funding program will also pay for the street, curb, gutter and existing sidewalk reconstruction,” Strand said.

In order to apply for the grant, the village needs biddable plans and specs, a survey and design plans by June 30. The project would be paid for with two revenue bonds added to the utilities budget, meaning tax exempt properties would pay into it as well.

The board will take action on the grant application in February.

SwiftCurrent Connect

Scott Freier from Swift-Current Connect/Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services spoke about the progress SwiftCurrent has made in bringing high-speed broadband internet to all of its members.

“We’ve pretty much surrounded Ellsworth now with all our broadband capabilities with symmetrical service 100 GB up and down,” Freier said. “Our goal is to provide internet services to all the rural members. We’re pretty much capping that this summer. We’ll have about 800 miles done.”

He asked the board to think about the village’s future when it comes to broadband. Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery and Associated Bank are in the process of getting hooked up. SwiftCurrent will be providing wifi at June’s Cheese Curd Festival.

Village president salary

The board voted unanimously to increase the village president’s salary to $8,000 per year. The question arose when looking at surrounding communities’ village president salaries, Village President Becky Beissel said. However, Trustee Lance Austion questioned the wisdom of spending more money when a huge sewer/water project is looming.

“Our village president does a lot of work and goes above and beyond, but right now I think we have a lot of stuff on our plate … nothing personal against Becky or any trustee,” Austin said.

He suggested waiting until the village gets some of the infrastructure improvements cleaned up, along with police department and village office staffing.

Trustee Dale Hines pointed out that the board can’t change their own salaries, so this would go into effect after the April election.

“It’s a lot more demanding job today than it was in the past,” Hines said.

Beissel agreed with the salary hike, not because of what she does, she said, but to make it more in line with other municipalities.

“All of the stuff that I’m doing is the stuff that I feel is important, it’s what I promised the community,” she said.

Vibrant Space grant

The board voted to pursue a Vibrant Spaces grant through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for up to $50,000 for a placemaking project outside the new Ellsworth Public Library (388 W. Main St.)

“We thought it would be a good idea to include the under the drive-thru area,” Beissel said. “Placemaking is all about making that third space where people can gather and spend time.”

If received, the library would have to provide matching funds. It would not come from the village budget. The plan would include items such as seating, a storytime area, games, benches, a removable stage, festoon lighting, fireplaces, interactive art and more.

“I thought it was a really cool plan. I think it’s a great way to go about it,” Library Director Tiffany Meyer said. “We have a match coming in in the spring from one of our pledges. People are excited about the plan and it’s fun to visualize the space.”

Other business

The board voted to hold village board meetings at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. going forward.

The board voted to remove the special assessment for the Pierce County Lift Station, which affects properties on North Maple, West Cairns, Burton Circle and Crosstown Road. Hines abstained.

The board voted to close the construction and demolition landfill by April. Compost will still be available.

The police department administrative assistant resigned effective Jan. 3. The department is also down to four remaining patrol officers, with one set to leave later this month.

January 10, 2023