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Water from municipal building roof primary source of basement problems

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Rain water and snow melt coming off the Colfax Municipal Building roof appear to be the primary source of water infiltration problems in the building’s basement.

Deterioration of the mortar along the south wall, along with window wells filled with gravel and the concrete handicapped accessibility ramp also are contributing to water problems in the basement, according to the report from the engineering firm of Ericksen Roed & Associates.

The Colfax Village Board reviewed the report at the August 24 meeting after approving a contract with Ericksen Roed & Associates at the August 10 meeting for $750 to make observations about the building and the water infiltration problem.

The report from the structural engineers was the first step on how to start addressing the water problems in the basement, noted Scott Gunnufson, village president.

The report from Ericksen Roed includes both short-term and long-term recommendations.

Water appears to be entering the municipal building basement primarily along the south and west walls.

“Deterioration of the mortar was typical along the south wall, increasing in severity toward the west wall. The area under the abandoned stairs (southwest corner) showed severe deterioration of the mortar and appeared to be a main point of water infiltration,” according to the report.

Lisa Ludwig, director of the Colfax Public Library, has observed standing water an inch or two deep in the back hallway of the basement by the bathrooms, which would be consistent with the observations of the structural engineers from Ericksen Roed.

The report goes on to state that there was no visible indication of leaking along the north wall and that the exterior walls generally appeared to be structurally sound based on visual observations made from inside the building.

The Colfax Municipal Building was built in 1915.


The roof drain scupper (downspout) is located along the west wall on the north and south side.

Asphalt grading slopes away from the building foundation on the northwest side, the report notes.

On the southwest side, however, the asphalt has been poorly maintained, and a depression in the soil has developed from the roof drainage water.

“This is the primary source of water entering the building’s basement in the southwest corner,” according to the report.

Other factors that can be contributing to water in the municipal building basement include the window wells on the south side filled with gravel and the handicapped ramp and sidewalk on the south side.

The window wells “can potentially allow water infiltration if there is no free drainage away from the building,” the report states.

The concrete ramp and sidewalk on the south side of the building “appears to interfere with good drainage,” the report goes on to say.


Short-term recommendations from Ericksen Roed & Associates include:

• Construct concrete or blacktop swales by the downspout to divert water away from the building.

• Patch cracks in the southwest corner joint below the abandoned stairs.

• Grade along the south wall between the sidewalk and building to ensure drainage.

• Put caps (concrete slab or poly with landscape rock) over window wells to minimize water infiltration.


Long-term recommendations from Ericksen Roed & Associates include:

• Excavate around the foundation of the building to determine structural adequacy and replace the exterior wall if inspection reveals the wall should be replaced. If the wall does not need to be replaced, install drain tile. Backfill with crushed rock at the footing to encourage drainage.

• Repair stone and mortar below grade on the exterior wall.

• Install exterior water proofing and drain board.

• Arrange for an architectural walk-through with follow up report.

• Install a vapor barrier over concrete floor in the basement and install a new floor on top of the vapor barrier.

• Retuck point interior face of the basement to repair deteriorated mortar joints.


“The biggest issue is diverting water away from the building,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee.

The south wall by the handicapped accessibility ramp is a concern, too, and the wall should be excavated to check it below grade, Gunnufson said.

The foundation should be checked before the concrete or blacktop is installed that would facilitate drainage away from the building, said Dave Wolff, village trustee.

The concrete ramp will have to be removed because the wall cannot be excavated to check the foundation with the ramp there, noted Rand Bates, director of public works.

The southwest corner is the biggest concern because water runs into the basement from there after a heavy rain, Gunnufson said.

Bates suggested constructing a concrete or blacktop trough to help divert water away from the building and also suggested installing a drain pipe to channel the water out to the street so it can drain away.

Village employees can do the short-term recommendations this fall to help drain water away from the building, but the long-term recommendations will require quotes from contractors so the village board will have an idea of the cost, Gunnufson said.

The first priority is to get the water away from the building, Bates said.

Grading to slope away from the building and installing a trench and a drain pipe “would help a lot of it. It would make a big difference,” he said.


The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion for Bates to work on the short-term recommendations and to get quotes from contractors for the long-term recommendations.

The village of Colfax has $77,912 in one designated fund for the municipal building basement and $165,280 in another fund designated for village hall improvements.

The $77,912 comes from $50,000 the village board set aside for the municipal building basement in 1999 and from private donations for improving the basement.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved a training request from Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk, to attend the Wisconsin Rural Water Association’s utility billing training workshop related to disconnection notices and landlord and tenant relationships on August 26 in Dodgeville. The cost of the training is $237.

• Approved a training request for Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, to attend the 2015 Fall Town and Village Workshops put on by the Wisconsin Towns Association in Eau Claire September 28 related to “Top 10 Need to Know on Town and Village Law Topics,” budgeting fundamentals, and revenue update and levy limits. The cost of the training is $65.

• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Daniel Schneider for Kyle’s Market.

• Approved a personal property tax refund request from Charter Communications in the amount of $1,983.17. According to an e-mail from Barbara Zempel, the village’s assessor, the state Department of Revenue notified assessors on May 26, 2015, that cable companies were reporting equipment on their statements of personal property that was exempt based on Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 70.111(25). The exempt equipment was removed from the 2015 assessment prior to Board of Review. The exempt equipment was included on the 2014 assessment. The amount for Charter Communication’s exempt equipment in 2014 was $76,500.

• Approved a donation of $50 to the Red Cedar Sounds Sweet Adeline’s Chorus. The Red Cedar Sounds will be performing their 9th Annual Harvest of Harmony Cabaret on Saturday, October 24, at Colfax High School. This year’s presentation will be “Want Kraut With That?” (A Day at the Brat Stand).

• Approved paying the village’s portion of 25 percent of the cost, in the amount of $1,700, for the Dunn County radio grant for the Colfax Rescue Squad, which will be receiving three portable radios and one mobile radio.

• Learned that the Colfax Rescue Squad has received a $22,500 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for equipment to administer nitrous oxide for pain control and for two motorized stair chairs, one for each ambulance.