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Torrential rain caused “waterfall” in the Colfax Municipal Building Basement

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  “It sounded like a waterfall,” said Lisa Ludwig, director of the Colfax Public Library.

Following torrential rain in the area on September 2 that flooded Connorsville, Ridgeland and closed roads in the northern one-third of Dunn County, the Colfax Municipal Building experienced its own problems.

Rainfall amounts in Dunn County on September 2 were reported to be anywhere from an inch to eight inches, with reports of around four inches of rain in the Colfax area.

Ludwig said she went into the municipal building basement the afternoon of September 2 to see if there was any water coming in.

Much to her dismay, water was cascading through the south wall.

Ludwig reported on the additional water problems at the Colfax Public Library Board’s September 9 meeting.

Because of all the rain this summer, the Colfax Municipal Building basement has frequently had standing water on the floor.

The Colfax Village Board contracted with the structural engineering firm of Ericksen Roed & Associates out of Eau Claire to assess the problems with water infiltration.

In a report dated August 20, Mark J. Tupa of Ericksen Roed wrote that the water infiltration in the municipal building basement was likely due to poor drainage away from the building of water coming off the roof.

The concrete handicapped accessible ramp probably did not help the drainage, either, the report noted.

Water could possibly be coming in the through the filled-in window wells on the south side, and crumbling mortar along the foundation wall appeared to be allowing water to seep into the basement, the report said.

Tupa’s report recommended excavating next to the south foundation of the municipal building to assess the integrity of the wall. If the foundation wall can be repaired, then it should be repaired, but if the deterioration is too great, then the south foundation wall should be replaced. In either case, drain tile should be installed.


Ludwig said she took a video of the water cascading into the basement from the south wall and asked Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, to forward the video to the Ericksen Roed structural engineer who had assessed the basement.

In the engineer’s opinion, if the south wall of the municipal building collapses, the damage would be “localized,” and the engineer did not believe anybody would be in danger, Ludwig reported to the library board.

The structural engineer also was of the opinion that it was “good” for the water to come through the wall, rather than building up pressure behind the wall. If there is no release of pressure, then it is much more likely the wall will collapse, she said.


Ludwig said she would like the county health inspector to check the basement for mold.

Humidity in the air in the Colfax Public Library is much higher this year than in other years, she said.

The covers of paperback books were beginning to curl, so Ludwig obtained a dehumidifier for the library.

It is the first time, Ludwig said, that she has needed to put a dehumidifier in the library.

The humidity is high enough in the library that the dehumidifier must be dumped two times every day, she said.

After the Colfax Village Board reviewed the Ericksen Roed & Associates August 20 report, the board approved having Niggemann contact contractors about the municipal building basement.

Mark Halpin, village trustee and the Colfax Village Board’s representative on the Colfax Library Board, encouraged library board members to attend the village board’s September 14 meeting.

“You should ask questions. You should ask about the timetable,” Halpin said.

1998 report

In 1998, the Colfax Village Board contracted with David Lien and David Peterson Architects Inc. out of Eau Claire to inspect the municipal building basement because of water infiltration problems.

A  number of groups that had been using the municipal building basement in 1998 for various activities, such as the senior nutrition program and blood drives for the American Red Cross, were forced to locate elsewhere because of the water problems.

The report from Lien and Peterson, dated June 23, 1998, made essentially the same observations and recommendations as the report from Ericksen Roed & Associates on August 20, 2015, and cited the window wells, roof drainage, and the handicapped accessible ramp’s interference with good drainage as causing water infiltration in the basement.

The Lien and Peterson report also noted that a waste line from the dishwasher in the kitchen had reportedly been broken for some time, so that water was draining under the floor, which would have caused additional problems from an interior source of water.

The Lien and Peterson 1998 report noted as well that they had been told there was no floor drain in the furnace room and that the boiler lost water.

The Colfax Municipal Building basement has essentially been closed to public use since 1998.

The Colfax Village Board spent $16,000 two years ago to have the basement cleaned, which included removing moldy sections of the wall coverings.

Since repair of the building has been neglected for the last 17 years, would the village’s insurance company even cover a catastrophic event caused by neglect, such as the south foundation wall collapsing, wondered Julia Conway, president of the Colfax Public Library Board.

The issue of insurance coverage is another question the village board should discuss, Halpin said.

Ludwig’s video of the water cascading into the basement “was an eye-opener,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Public Library Board:

• Discussed the county’s projected budget shortfall and library budget reimbursements.  Currently Dunn County reimburses 100 percent for those residents who live outside of Colfax and use the library in Colfax, even though state law does not require 100 percent reimbursement. Kitz Cleary, the Dunn County Board’s representative on the Colfax Public Library Board, recommended that Ludwig contact Jim Tripp, county board supervisor and chair of the community resources and tourism committee, which reviews and recommends library reimbursements.

• Approved a policy regarding the Colfax Friends of the Library.

• Approved a policy regarding literacy and the library’s support of literacy programs.

The Colfax Public Library Board meets next on October 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Colfax Public Library.