By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Following a report on the Power of 10 project in Colfax last summer, the Colfax Village Board has expressed an interest in seeing business owners in the village start a business association.
Chris Straight of the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission presented the Power of 10 report to the Colfax Village Board at the January 14 meeting.
During the Power of 10 Workshop last July, a group of about 20 people divided up into teams to assess several districts in the village and to make suggestions for improvements.
Colfax was one of two communities selected as the beneficiaries of a grant from the Project for Public Spaces for which the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission had applied.
Representatives for the Project for Public Spaces conducted the same Power of 10 Workshop earlier in the day for the Village of Owen.
The idea behind the Power of 10 is that it takes ten activities or features to make a space active and vital so that it is attractive to visitors.
The concept includes what workshop conductors called a “bread crumb trail” that will lead people from one space to the next.
“What makes someone at the pizzeria (A Little Slice of Italy) want to walk down the street to the antique shop (Colfax Arts and Antique Mall and Twice Blessed Treasures)?” Straight asked.
The reason that Colfax and Owen were selected for the Power of 10 Workshop is that both villages had included downtown revitalization in their Smart Growth Comprehensive Plans, he said.
The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission also is now working with other communities on the Power of 10, including Altoona and Woodville, Straight said.
Some of the “bread crumbs” for Colfax include more outdoor seating, painting crosswalks to make them more prominent (so that with any luck at all, traffic will stop for people crossing the street), planting flowers, painting murals, sprucing up the parks and hosting outdoor street events.
The recommendations that came out of the Power of 10 Workshop are not intended to be put “on the shoulders of the village board,” Straight said.
Some communities have developed a Power of 10 coordinating committee to “make sure things get done,” he said.
During the Power of 10 Workshop, a strong interest was expressed among business owners to form a business association in Colfax, he said.
Mark Johnson, owner of the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall and the manager for the Johnson building, was one of the workshop participants.
“Where do we go from here?” asked Johnson, who also attended the January 14 village board meeting.
Straight said a business association would be a good first step and that he and the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission would be willing to help, but that the idea needed “champions” in the village: the village board, business owners, and the community at large.
During the Power of 10 Workshop in July, several participants mentioned problems working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Because two state highways, 40 and 170, run through Colfax, the state has jurisdiction over those roadways.
“We’ve been trying to get permits for two years to put up the school reunion signs. We’re frustrated trying to accomplish that,” said Chris Olson, village trustee.
Two Colfax signs were donated to the village in honor of the Colfax High School All School Reunion in 2010, but to date, those signs have never been installed anywhere because DOT officials refuse to give permission.
An overhead banner on Main Street between the Commercial Testing building and the Colfax Health Mart also has drawn criticism from the DOT, Chris Olson said.
“We got tagged for that because it was up for over 90 days, and the DOT said it was an eyesore,” he noted.
Chris Olson, who is chair of the village board’s parks committee, said he ran into problems with a sign for the fairgrounds as well, although instead of the DOT, it was the state Department of Natural Resources that was not amenable.
“I asked about a 4×8 (foot) lighted sign for the fairgrounds. The DNR had a cow over it,” he said.
Straight said he would be willing to contact the DOT to see if representatives would be willing to meet with the Colfax Village Board.
Gary Stene, village president, asked if Mark Johnson would be willing to contact other business owners in the village about forming an association.
The Colfax Village Board will include the business association and the Power of 10 recommendations on a future agenda in a month or six weeks, Stene said.
Straight said he would be willing to come back to work with the village board and business owners to see what could be accomplished for the Power of 10 suggestions.