By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — If you have driven across the railroad crossing on Dunn Street by the Colfax Rescue Squad in the past week or two, you know what Village Trustee Beverly Schauer is talking about.
Schauer brought up the issue of the railroad crossing ruts (county Highway BB on the west side of the village, too) at the Colfax Village Board’s January 27 meeting.
“Anybody driving a small car can get caught, and then they’ll just hang there,” Schauer said, noting that the icy street by the crossing adds to the difficulty of achieving adequate traction to get across the crossing.
The problem, said Rand Bates, director of public works, is that soon after it has snowed, before village crews have a chance to plow the snow, the train comes through and creates ruts along the rails.
The bitter cold weather over the last two months has not helped because the snow has frozen to a hardness that is like concrete, he said.
In response to Schauer’s question about who is responsible for plowing the crossing — the village or Canadian National Railroad — Bates said that it is the village’s responsibility to plow the crossing.
Schauer wondered about using the bucket on the front-end loader to break up the icy ruts.
Bates said village crews have tried prying the ice loose but have not had any success.
Schauer wondered about “dropping” the bucket of the front-end loader to act as a jackhammer to break up the ice.
Bates noted that the hydraulics on the bucket work against that idea because the hydraulic controls let the bucket down slowly and do not allow for good smashing action.
Another problem village crews want to avoid is breaking up some of the ice but not all of it, he said.
If the front-end loader manages to remove a section of the ice but the rest of it stays solid, then instead of ruts along the rails, there will be a big hole in the middle of the crossing, Bates explained.
Village Trustee Annie Schieber suggested putting up caution signs by the railroad crossings.
Village Trustee Richard Johnson objected to the idea of caution signs.
Drivers need to watch where they are going, and if it looks as if their vehicle will have trouble getting across the tracks, they should stop and turn around, he said.
Several village board members asked if the railroad could be of assistance in clearing the crossing.
“We can’t hardly get the railroad to even do anything on (state Highway 40) much less any of the other crossings,” Bates said.
Village President Scott Gunnufson suggested that when Canadian National performs maintenance on the crossings or changes out the rails, perhaps the railroad could install a different kind of crossing.
Some railroad crossings, he noted, have a metal grate that would make it easier to remove snow.
“There must be some kind of equipment to take it off. It’s ridiculous. If you get down in there with a small car, you’ll hang there,” Schauer said.
Gunnufson said the village would work on communicating with Canadian National Railroad about the crossings.
As of Friday, January 31, it appeared that village employees had some success in scraping snow and ice from the crossing on Dunn Street so that the ruts were not as deep as they had been.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved EMT basic refresher training for Michelle Briggs, Jerry Favero, Peter Jain, Jerry Lofthus and Stephanie Reither on February 3, 8, 15, 17 and 24th at Chippewa Valley Technical College. The refresher course is required training and will be paid for by a grant received by the Colfax Rescue Squad, said Jackie Ponto, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
• Approved a training request from Bates and village employee Don Logslett to attend the 26th annual Wisconsin Rural Water Association’s technical conference in Green Bay March 25 through March 28.
• Approved waiving the rental fee for the Colfax Fairgrounds for the Colfax Sportsmen’s Club swap meet May 15.
• Approved ordinance amendment 2014-01 establishing through highway status and stop signs at various intersections. The ordinance will take effect after it is published in the Colfax Messenger.
• Approved an audit contract in the amount of $20,085 with Bauman Associates to audit the village’s financial records for 2013. Ponto reported that she now completes the quarterly payroll reports, W2s and 1099 forms, and those expenses are no longer on the Bauman contract. When asked how much she is saving the village, Ponto said she estimated the savings at around $2,000.
• Approved the Length of Service Award (LOSA) payment of about $9,500 for Colfax firefighters. The payment is a “pass through,” meaning the village must make the payment but that the Colfax fire district provides the funds, Ponto explained.
• Accepted the gift of a sign for Iverson Park in memory of Kenneth Iverson from his family. The sign, the posts and the decorative caps will be donated, and village employees will install the sign when the ground is no longer frozen.
• Approved paying for all of the electricity and pit pumping at Tom Prince Memorial Park as recommended by the parks committee. The Colfax Softball Association previously paid for half of the electricity and pit pumping. The additional expense for the village will be about $700 per year.