Colfax amends parking regulations for River Street

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Since 1999, parking restrictions have been in place in Colfax for River Street from Pine Street to Cedar Street that no parking is allowed during certain hours at night all year around.

The Colfax Village Board changed the village’s parking ordinances at the January 23 meeting to allow parking on River Street from Pine Street to Main Street and from Main Street to Cedar Street with a permit from November 1 to May 1 and parking on River Street at any time the rest of the year, except for those restrictions on parking by the Colfax Health Mart Pharmacy.

The changes to the parking ordinances were made to allow tenants living above the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall to park on River Street overnight without getting a parking ticket.

The permit for parking on River Street at night is necessary so that the police department will have a current telephone number for a vehicle owner and a license plate number for the vehicle in the event of a snow emergency so the vehicle owner can be notified to move his or her vehicle to another side street.

Unfortunately, the red brick building on Main Street that houses Ray’s Metal Works, the Colfax Arts and Antique Mall and the Cafe II Coffee Shop and Bakery was built in 1916 right up to the lot line, said Mark Johnson, co-owner of the building.

No off-street parking is available for the building, and the building’s owners have not been able to come to any agreements with the owners of nearby buildings where off-street parking would be available, Johnson said.

Other buildings along River Street that have apartments also have off-street parking available.

“Short of there being some mythical land suddenly available for parking, there is no place to park,” Johnson said. 

Although the original parking restriction for River Street applied to the hours of 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., the ordinance was amended in March of 2011 to restrict parking on River Street from midnight to 6 a.m.

Snow removal

The problem with River Street from Pine Street to Cedar Street is that there is no boulevard where village crews can push snow, said Rand Bates, director of public works.

The snow on River Street must be put into windrows and removed, he explained.

On other streets in town, village personnel can push the snow onto the boulevard to allow traffic the opportunity to get through, Bates said.

At one time, River Street also was used as “storage” for snow that had been removed from other streets until it could be loaded into dump trucks and hauled elsewhere.

The addition of a snowblower to the village’s snow removal equipment has eliminated the need for piling snow on River Street because the snow is blown into a truck as the street is cleared.

Be that as it may, cars parked along River Street create big problems when village crews are using snow removal equipment, Bates said.

“It doesn’t matter if it is one car or ten cars — if there is a car parked there, we have to bring the equipment back to get the rest of the snow (once the vehicle or vehicles are gone),” he said.

Colfax also has an “odd-even” parking ordinance during the winter months where cars must be parked on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd-numbered days and on the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered days.

“Odd-even parking is okay in the rest of the village because there is room on the boulevard for snow,” Bates said.

Tenants

The Colfax Arts and Antique Mall building has three tenants in apartments upstairs, Johnson said.

Two of the tenants have vehicles, he noted.

“If the renters could be told to park on Cedar, that would be best for us,” Bates said.

Johnson wondered if there were any restrictions for “non-residents” of a street to park long-term on a residential street in town.

Although the homeowners might not especially like the idea, other people are free to park along the residential streets, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer. 

Colfax Police Chief William Anderson suggested that from November to April, a permit could be used for parking along River Street, and if it snows, then the permit becomes invalid and the vehicle owner must park on a side street.

Summer 

Although restricting parking on River Street in the winter months makes sense because of snow removal issues, no one at the village board meeting had any idea why past village boards had restricted parking on River Street all year long.

“It does not snow every day, so what (Police Chief Anderson) has proposed is the least hassle,” Bates said.

One of the tenants is generally gone by 6 a.m., Johnson noted.

The permit could be issued on a yearly basis so the phone number can be kept current, said Scott Gunnufson, village president. 

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to change the village’s parking ordinances to allow parking with a permit from midnight to 6 a.m. on River Street from Pine Street to Main Street and from Main Street to Cedar Street from November 1 to May 1 with the condition that if accumulating snow is in the forecast, permit holders must park their vehicles elsewhere. 

Sidewalk

Another item of business for the Colfax Village Board January 23 was consideration of a request from Dave Hovre for reimbursement of sidewalk repairs.

The total cost was $300, and the village’s share of 40 percent amounted to $120.

Tree roots had broken a section of sidewalk, and Hovre arranged to have the sidewalk repaired. He remembered that the village would pay for a portion of the sidewalk after the repair was completed, Niggemann explained.

To prepare for additional sidewalk repairs in the village, Niggemann said she is working on ways to put sidewalk reimbursement into the budget. 

The problem is that from year to year, no one knows how much the village could end up spending on sidewalks, she said.

One option might be to have village residents obtain estimates for the repairs one year and do the repair the next year, which would allow the village time to put the amount into the following year’s budget, Niggemann said.

The village currently has a list of sidewalks in need of repair or replacement compiled by EMTs with the Colfax Rescue Squad while they were out and about in the village on other business, she said.

The village could send out notices to property owners about sidewalks needing repair “so we can budget it for next year,” Niggemann said.

The way sidewalk reimbursement works now is on a first-come first-serve basis, Gunnufson noted.

Village Trustee Mark Halpin said he and other village board members had done a walk-around a few years ago to assess the sidewalks in the village.

In some sections of the village, whole blocks needed repair, he said.

“You could eat up $2,000 quickly, (but) it is difficult to encourage everyone to replace their sidewalks,” Halpin said.

When Halpin was walking around the village assessing sidewalks, people would come out of their houses to see what he was doing. When he told them he was assessing the condition of the sidewalks, village residents would insist “there is nothing wrong with the sidewalk,” Halpin said.

Gunnufson pointed out there might be a cost benefit if contractors were to do estimates for whole blocks at a time.

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved Hovre’s request for reimbursement in the amount of $120 for 12-foot by 5-foot section of sidewalk repaired by Andy’s Custom Concrete Inc. 

Water meters

The village board learned that Colfax would get a discount of $1,641.50 on the purchase of the new Kamstrup water meters if the amount of $80,433.50 were paid in a lump sum rather than taking the seven year financing by the company offered at 3.36 percent interest with an annual payment of $13,579. 

Seven annual payments at $13,579 amounts to $95,053.

Niggemann reported that Dairy State Bank would offer an interest rate of 2.45 percent for seven years, and Bremer Bank would offer an interest rate of 2.94 percent. 

Niggemann said she also had learned the village would have to obtain approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to change out all of the residential water meters in the village. 

Several village board members wondered if the water meters could be purchased with money in the village’s fund balance.

Much would depend on what the village’s auditors say about spending money from the fund balance for the water meters, Niggemann said.

The village has $15,000 in the budget that could go toward paying for the new water meters, and if the auditors agree, the remaining $65,000 could come from the general fund, she said. 

Other business 

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved a training request from Police Chief Anderson to attend the 2017 Wisconsin Police Chief Leadership Conference February 12 to February 15 in Wisconsin Dells. The total cost is $525. Police Chief Anderson will be sharing lodging with the Bloomer police chief.

• Approved a training request for Rand Bates and Tim Rundle to attend the 2017 Utility Conference in Rice Lake on February 15. The total cost is $30. The purpose of the conference is to provide updates about permitting processes, work zones, state highway improvements and local road programs, Bates said.

• Approved a temporary Class “B”/ “Class B” retailer’s license for the Colfax Woman’s Club for January 28 for the wine and craft beer tasting at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center. 

• Approved continuing an agreement with Anytime Fitness for village employees. Under the agreement, the village pays the initial sign-up fee for employees who wish to take advantage of the program, and then if employees make 12 visits to Anytime Fitness in a month, the village pays the monthly fee for that month. If an employee lets membership at Anytime Fitness lapse, the village would not pay a second sign-up fee. The village generally has three employees who take advantage of the program, Niggemann said. 

• Accepted a donation from the estate of Muriel Larson in the amount of $1,000 for Colfax Evergreen Cemetery. The motion stipulated that the donation be used toward developing the “spreading garden” at the cemetery. 

• Learned that a new leak has sprung in the Colfax Municipal Building basement in an area where there had not previously been water infiltrating. Niggemann said she had contacted A Breeze Construction, the company that did the Tower Park drainage project last year, to have someone come out and look at the situation. The leak is coming from the southeast corner of the foundation in an area that had not been leaking before, Niggemann said.