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Colfax village board agrees to have structural engineer assess municipal building basement

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Village Board has agreed to start the process for identifying a structural engineer to assess the water infiltration problems in the Colfax Municipal Building basement.

After several episodes of heavy rain earlier in July, the municipal building basement has had standing water on the floor, and members of the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group discussed the problem with the Colfax Village Board at the July 27 meeting.

The Village of Colfax has $78,912 in a fund designated for restoring the municipal building basement, said Joan Scharlau, CMBRG president.

The village board set aside $50,000 when water infiltration first became a problem when the Colfax Merry Mixers were still meeting in the basement, and the basement was still being used as the senior nutrition site, she said.

According to information included in the village board packet, the municipal building basement has been closed to the public since 1998.

The Colfax Village Board set aside money to repair the basement in 1999.

The additional $30,000 in the designated fund is from donations by private citizens to the village for repairing the basement and from interest earned on the account, Scharlau said.

The village also has $165,000 in another account designated for the municipal building, she noted.

“The money keeps appearing every time you have an audit,” Scharlau said, adding that she did not know the source of the $165,000 but that the amount has been appearing on the village’s audit as a designated fund for years.

If the village spends $250,000 on the municipal building, people are going to wonder why the money was spent, said Scott Gunnufson, village president.

The question then becomes “what is best for the community,” he said.

Money that a governmental body has set aside in a designated fund must be spent on the purpose for which it is designated.


Scharlau pointed out that water in the municipal building basement creates problems with mold that affect the entire building and can be a health hazard for village employees, for people coming to use the library and for those who have other business in the building, such as those coming to vote.

“There’s the constant smell coming from the basement and the mold in the basement,” Scharlau said.

Lisa Ludwig, director of the Colfax Public Library, agreed.

“Our concern is that we have to do something. It’s not an option anymore (to do nothing),” she said.

Ludwig has photographs of the standing water in the basement and noted that there is still water in puddles weeks later.

“Let’s come up with a plan of how we can stop that water coming through the walls. My fear is that someday the wall will collapse. I’ve been here 15 years. This is the worst I’ve ever seen the water problem,” Ludwig said.

“Two years ago we took the floor out. Now we can actually see that standing water. Before that the water was underneath the flooring. We could smell it. … I think the problem is getting worse,” Ludwig said, adding that she is concerned about damage to the foundation.

Clean up

The Colfax Village Board paid $16,000 two years ago to have a company come in and clean up mold in the municipal building basement. The wooden floor, which was warped and had heaved in certain spots, also was removed.

The village board approved having the basement cleaned because several employees were experiencing health problems because of the mold and because of the odor on the first floor of the building.

CMBRG member Mona Thorson wondered why the village board has not arranged to have basic maintenance done on a village-owned building.

“It’s your own building … to me it seems like common sense that you would take a shop vac instead of letting (the water) sit there,” Thorson said.


Last year, CMBRG solicited two quotes for addressing the water infiltration problems, Scharlau said.

Both quotes placed the price at around $20,000, although the quotes are no longer valid, and new quotes would now have to be obtained, she said.

Gunnufson said that having a structural engineer assess the water infiltration problem would be a good idea and suggested contacting Ayres Associates to see if the company had a structural engineer who could do the work or if the company could recommend an engineer.

The water problem has been an issue for a long time, he said.

The village board did not want to make a decision about the basement until after seeing the results of the advisory referendum on the library, Gunnufson said.

“Village residents did not want to pursue a new library or a new municipal building,” he said.

Thorson wondered about Ayres Associates in conjunction with the library.

“We have a relationship with Ayres as engineers for street projects. (It has) nothing to do with the library. Ayres can give good recommendations if they do not have an engineer who can do the work,” Gunnufson said.

Phase I

Ayres Associates is, in fact, the company that the village board hired to start the library project.

The Colfax Village Board approved hiring Ayres Associates at the January 19 meeting to complete Phase I for the library.

According to the proposal from Ayres Associates, Phase I would have provided a project report that would have included preliminary cost estimates, operational cost estimates, a brief analysis of each facility option (such as stand alone library; multi-purpose building; one story and two story); and other observations.

Ayres planned to present the report to the Colfax Public Library Board and the Colfax Village Board and also planned to attend a community town hall meeting to present the report and answer questions.

Phase I was intended to provide information to village residents on which they could base their vote during the advisory referendum in April. Phase I was never completed, or if it was completed, was never presented.

The cost for Phase I was $1,800.

Next meeting

Gunnufson instructed Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, to contact Ayres Associates about a structural engineer to assess the municipal building basement.

After Ayres provides a proposal or makes a recommendation for a structural engineer, the village board’s property committee should discuss the issue and make a recommendation for the village board, Gunnufson said.

Hiring a structural engineer to assess the basement could be an agenda action item for the village board’s next meeting in August, he said.

“I would like to see us be more aggressive to treat what’s down there now, whether it be dehumidifiers and some bigger air movers and bigger fans. More air moving down there would certainly help, in my opinion,” said Village Trustee Mark Halpin

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved bartender operators’ licenses for Brittany Rothbauer (A Little Slice of Italy); Cierra Duke (Express Mart); Peggy Richards; Mark Johnson (Colfax Commercial Club).

• Approved temporary Class “B”/ “Class B”  retailer’s licenses for August 15 and August 16 for the Colfax Commercial Club and for the Colfax Woman’s Club for August 14.

• Approved an application from Andy’s Custom Concrete Inc. for a lot in the East View development.

• Approved paying the village’s share for sidewalk repair on West River Street in the amount of $1,170 requested by homeowners. The sidewalk was broken up from a tree being removed, and all homeowners plan to have the same contractor, Nellessen Concrete, and are asking approval for the current budget year, Niggemann said. The homeowners are Rick and Nancy Hainstock at 207 W. River Street; Del and Sharon Gunderson at 211 W. River Street; Josh and Jessica Mikesell on W. River Street. According to the village’s code of ordinances, the village pays 40 percent of sidewalk repair.

• Approved hiring Todd Higbie (Bobcat Pro) and Gary Hill (Hill Trucking) to haul in material to complete the cemetery road at a cost not to exceed $1,600. The material will be hauled from the lagoon area. Approximately 400 yards of base course (40 loads) will be needed. Each company will bill the village for a cost not to exceed $1,600 total for both invoices.

• Approved a contract with Bobcat Pro/Todd Higbie in the amount of $2,525 to fix the washout in the bank along Highway 40 going down to Eighteen Mile Creek. “We are fine to take care of this problem now. If (the washout) reaches the water, the DNR will get involved, and we will need an engineer,” said Rand Bates, director of public works.

• Approved a hold harmless agreement and to include the agreement with the special events permit package for the village for people asking to rent village facilities for private use.

• Approved updating the noxious weed ordinance to remove milkweed from the ordinance. Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, and monarch butterfly populations are declining because milkweed is disappearing from the landscape.

• Approved a resolution to close the TID No. 3 Dairy State Bank wealth builder account and open a money market account.

• Approved a resolution to close the Dairy State Bank public library wealth builder account and open a money market account.