By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The wood floor in the Colfax Municipal Building basement will soon be gone.
The Colfax Village Board accepted a bid of $2,500 from Orville Larson at the September 9 meeting to remove the wood flooring.
Because of moisture problems in the basement, the wood flooring has buckled in places.
Jackie Ponto, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, reported that the village had received only one bid.
Air MD Restoration will soon begin cleaning the basement to mitigate mold problems, and a company representative recommended that the wood floor be removed before the cleaning began.
Beverly Schauer, village trustee, is adamantly opposed to spending any money on the municipal building.
“How much money are we going to put in this thing? … This will keep going on forever. The village taxpayers will not be happy with us,” she said.
The municipal building basement has had water and mold problems for a long time and has not been used for about 15 years.
Village employees who work in the municipal building are reportedly beginning to suffer health problems from exposure to the mold.
“We need to have the mold issue taken care of for the employees … we can’t relocate everybody (to a new office),” Ponto said.
Annie Schieber, village trustee, agreed that the village board should arrange for cleaning the basement, but after that, the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group should pay for making it a usable space.
“There is an organization that has taken on the responsibility of fixing the building … then we can say, ‘we have taken care of the employees now you have to take care of the aesthetics.’ That’s my opinion,” Schieber said.
The municipal building “is nickel and diming us to death. For what we’ve spent on this building, we could have a new building and nice roads,” Schauer said.
The Colfax Municipal Building was built in 1915 and is listed on the state and National Register of Historic Places.
Grants and donations
The Village of Colfax received a $180,000 energy efficiency block grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 to help pay for making the municipal building more energy efficient.
The Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group donated $100,000 as well.
The entire project included electrical upgrades, a new heating and cooling system and a new roof.
The revised contract price for the municipal building project was $277,000 after saving $61,000 by the owner-direct purchase of roofing materials.
The Colfax Village Board also approved $43,000 for grant administration.
Considering the contract with Dell Construction, the energy efficiency grant and the CMBRG donation, the village spent about $40,000 on the municipal building.
If the village board were to build a new village hall similar to the one in Elk Mound and paved all of the five streets on the five-year street improvement plan, the cost would be $1.75 million.
The new village hall in Elk Mound cost $350,000, which was in addition to the $100,000 that the Elk Mound Village Board paid for the lot.
The new Elk Mound Village Hall does not include a library and does not have an auditorium.
The estimate for the five-year street improvement plan for Colfax is $1.3 million.
The energy efficiency grant, which does not have to be paid back, could not have been put toward a new building.
The municipal building restoration group is dedicated to the municipal building and would not have donated money for a new building.
Mark Halpin, village trustee, noted that the village board has not spent any money on the municipal building basement in the last ten years.
“We can’t let it sit the way it has been. We need to pursue this,” Halpin said.
Scott Gunnufson, village president, suggested that it would be beneficial for the village board to discuss intent and responsibilities with the restoration group.
“We need to outline what (CMBRG) is responsible for and what the village is responsible for,” he said.
“We need to remove the mold for everyone’s safety. Then we have to look at it after that,” Schieber said.
“We are all bright enough not to be sticking money into things that are not going to benefit anybody,” Schauer said.
“We have to look at the employees who work here,” Halpin said.
“Then let’s get them out of here. We could have had them out of here a long time ago,” Schauer said.
“Where are we going to move them?” Halpin wondered.
“There’s all kinds of places. I will give them my house if needed. I don’t have mold in there,” Schauer replied.
At one time, the Colfax Municipal Building basement was used by a variety of groups, such as church groups, 4-H groups, Girl Scouts, and the Barbershoppers, and also was the nutrition site for senior citizen meals.
A variety of items remain in the basement from groups that used the space.
Rand Bates, director of public works, pointed out that the items would have to be removed before the floor could be removed and before the basement is cleaned.
Village employees have already spent several hours moving items in the basement, he said.
Board members wondered if Ponto could contact the groups to tell them to remove their items.
Village employees could carry anything that remains to a Dumpster, Bates noted.
The Colfax Village Board accepted the bid from Orville Larson/the Handy Man in the amount of $2,500 on a vote of six to one.
Schauer voted against the motion.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a one-year agreement with the Dunn County treasurer’s office to continue collecting property taxes for the village. Previously the village paid $1.10 per parcel. The new agreement increases the fee to $2.25 per parcel. The village has 613 parcels, so the total cost will be $1,379.
• Approved an agreement with Tri-State Adjustments to collect unpaid ambulance bills from people who do not live in Wisconsin. The unpaid invoices for Wisconsin residents are registered under the Tax Refund Intercept Program, which allows the village to place a lien against any tax refunds. According to the agreement with Tri-State, the company will receive 33.3 percent of amounts over $25 that are collected and will receive 50 percent on accounts that are under $25.