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Colfax library board: “And now we wait”

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  With the Tower Park drainage project almost completed, now the waiting begins to see if the municipal building basement will dry out enough so it could possibly be used for library services.

Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, spoke to the Colfax Public Library Board about the Colfax Municipal Building drainage project at the library board’s June 7 meeting.

The Colfax Village Board contracted with A Breeze Construction to improve drainage around the municipal building to divert water away from the foundation to eliminate water infiltration in the basement.

The estimated cost of the project is $54,000 and will be covered by a fund designated for improvements to the municipal building basement.

The most recent report is that the designated fund contains about $79,000.

The village set aside $25,000 for the account on September 1, 1999, and set aside another $25,000 on November 17, 1999. At least some of the additional money in the account came from individuals who made donations to the village for improvements to the municipal building basement.

Last summer after periods of heavy rain, Lisa Ludwig, the now retired director of the Colfax Public Library, videotaped water coming into the basement and described it as “sounding like a waterfall.”

Usability

“We have to see if the basement is going be useable,” Niggemann told library board members at the June 7 meeting.

In the past two weeks, about five inches of rain has fallen in the area, and Niggemann noted that there is still some water leakage in the basement.

A Breeze Construction has installed a rubber membrane around the outside of the basement wall to help channel water away from the building.

Water still seems to be seeping into the basement in some places, Niggemann said.

Several issues have been identified in the Tower Park drainage project that may be contributing to water still coming into the basement. For example, a rubber membrane has not yet been installed under the steps on the west side of the handicapped accessible ramp, she said.

“The soil saturation is very high, and the south wall is still a little damp,” Niggemann said, adding that she had asked Rand Bates, director of public works, to install fans and dehumidifiers in the basement to help with the drying process.

In other areas, it appears the membrane needs to sealed, she noted.

Julia Hydukovich, president of the Colfax Public Library Board, wondered how long the village planned to wait to see if the drainage project is working and whether the basement can be completely dried out.

Waiting for a year until next spring after the snow has melted and the ground has dried up should be sufficient time to determine whether the project was successful, Niggemann said.

Going forward

In the meantime, the Colfax Village Board’s public property committee and the Colfax Library Board should have some joint meetings, Niggemann said.

The handicapped ramp is a concern for people in wheelchairs regarding the way the door opens, she said.

An elevator also would have to be installed in the building to make all three floors handicapped accessible, and the electrical code violations and other violations in the basement would have to be addressed, Niggemann said.

The basement must be brought up to code before it can be used, she said.

State inspectors declared the basement off limits for public use in the 1990s because electrical code violations and other violations.

Unfortunately, the state no longer has a copy of the original report, Niggemann said.

An architect has suggested that a lift for the municipal building would cost between $125,000 and $150,000, she said.

Gary Stene, former village president and the Dunn County Board’s representative on the Colfax Public Library Board, suggested it may be wise to have the state complete another inspection of the basement so the village board and library board are aware of all of the work required before the basement could be used.

Stene noted that around 2001, an engineer had assessed the entire building and said renovation would cost $800,000.

Since then, the village has received a $250,000 federal energy efficiency grant, and the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group also has spent more than $100,000 on renovating the auditorium.

“You should get those figures now so you know what would be needed to keep using the building,” Stene said, adding that the upgrades would not have to be done all at once.

“You can work on it in pieces,” he said.

Niggemann said a public property committee meeting would be scheduled soon and recommended that as many library board members as possible attend the committee meeting.

In addition to Hydukovich and Stene, the Colfax Public Library Board includes Lori Halpin (secretary); Mark Halpin (village board representative); Nancy Baumgartner; and Sarah Teele.