Water to keep laterals open in Colfax last winter cost $40,000

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The cost of businesses and homeowners running water in Colfax last winter to keep the water laterals from freezing up was almost $40,000.

The Colfax Village Board’s audit and finance committee approved sewer and water write-offs of $37,770 at the October 13 meeting.

Rather than thinking of it as the village “spending” $40,000 on water, it is more accurate to say that the village did not collect $40,000 from the residents and businesses.

Most of the adjustment — $21,337.89 for the sewer utility and $16,064 for the water utility — were due to running water in the winter to help keep the laterals open, said Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk treasurer.

Many municipalities in this part of Wisconsin issued a “run water” order asking residents and businesses to keep their water running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a pencil-thin stream.

Most of the municipalities adjusted the water and sewer bills by charging residents and businesses for the amount of water used in the comparable quarter from the previous winter rather than the amount from that quarter in 2014.

Sewer and water bills for village residents and businesses have already been adjusted to compensate for the additional sewer and water charges.

The winter of 2013-2014 was the coldest winter since 1904-1905 with many days of “afternoon highs” that were below zero Fahrenheit or with windchills below zero.

Rand Bates, director of public works, reported at the October 13 meeting that were a total of 46 frozen laterals last winter.

According to the budget comparison reviewed by the audit and finance committee, so far this year, the water fund has spent $31,858.40 on outside services, and the sewer fund has spent $37,565.86 on outside services.

Some of the money spent on outside services was also for thawing the laterals, Riemer said.

Vendors for outside services for the water fund included Tainter Machine, A-1 Excavating, Hydro Designs, Municipal Well & Pump, and Commercial Testing.

Randy Valaske of Tainter Machine spent a significant amount of time in Colfax last winter with his portable welder, working on thawing out frozen laterals.

Vendors for outside services for the sewer fund included the engineering and consulting firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson; LBR Electric; and R&R Waste Systems Cleaning.

Rescue squad

The audit and finance committee also approved the Colfax Rescue Squad budget adjustment report.

The amounts under the “other adjustment” column in the seven-page report were ambulance bills that are not collectible, either because the person who received services died or because the invoices have been on the books too long.

Any services that can be charged to Medicare or Medicaid are not collectible after they have been on the books for one year.

The total under the section “the time limit has expired for filing” was $2,033.

The total under the section “charge exceeds fee schedule or maximum allowable” was $64,270.

The Colfax Rescue Squad has a fee schedule for services, but Medicare and Medicaid will only pay a certain amount for those services.

Grand totals for the report included $111,142 collected so far this year for insurance payments and $23,252 for patient payments.

According to the Colfax Rescue Squad’s annual report, Colfax collected $55,693 from Medicare in 2012 even though the rescue squad billed out about $100,000 to Medicare.

The rescue squad’s budget for 2015 is $439,121.

Refreshment stand

During the regular Colfax Village Board meeting following the audit and finance committee meeting, village board members received a report on the cost for replacing the refreshment stand (beer tent; beer shed; beer garden) at the Colfax Fairgrounds.

The building collapsed in February from the weight of heavy, wet snow.

According to the report, the village spent $54,270.28 to replace the structure, along with a new roof for the pavilion and a new roof for the restrooms at the fairgrounds.

The village received an initial insurance payment (the first installment) on May 6 of $21,319.48.

Colfax also will be receiving a second insurance payment for the structure that is expected to be $24,470.

During the Colfax Free Fair, a tent was put up for the American Legion to serve refreshments because there was not enough time to replace the building by the middle of June.

A strong wind damaged some of the tent canvases, and the village received $500 toward replacing the canvases from the Colfax Fair Board.

The difference between the cost of replacing the refreshment stand and the other improvements and the amount of money received from insurance and the fair board is an overage of $7,980.