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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board has agreed to pay 60 percent — or $919 — toward a retention pond to deal with stormwater run-off at a house on Cedar Street.
The village board’s street committee met prior to the August 26 village board meeting and recommended the village pay the property owner $1,531 to have the stormwater retention area installed with all risk going to the property owner, said Scott Gunnufson, village president, at the Colfax Village Board’s August 26 meeting.
At issue is a house owned by Village Trustee Mark Halpin at 401 Cedar Street.
Halpin has told the village board that while some stormwater and snow melt collected in the yard from time to time over the years, the problem has gotten much worse since the village completed a street project several years ago.
The village board has discussed the stormwater problem several times this summer at a village board meeting in July and again at the August 12 meeting.
One option to deal with excess stormwater coming from the area of Legion Drive and Cedar Street was to install a “French drain” in the yard of the house Halpin owns.
A French drain is a hole filled with rock to catch and hold water, which then allows the water to seep away.
Lisa Fleming, an engineer with Ayres Associates, attended the August 12 meeting to make a pay request for the Roosevelt Street project.
French drains are illegal, and the project should be referred to as a stormwater pond or stormwater retention area, she said.
The use of a stormwater retention area in the yard would be considered a temporary fix until Cedar Street is rebuilt and a storm sewer could be installed from Cedar Street east to state Highway 40/Main Street where there is already a storm sewer draining to the Red Cedar River.
An estimate from Bobcat Pro listed a dug out area six feet wide, 12 feet long and 15 feet deep to be filled with two loads of three-inch by six-inch screened rock and using sand dug out from the area put on top of the rock two feet deep for a filter area at a cost of $1,531.50.
At the August 12 meeting, Fleming recommended wrapping the stone with filter fabric to keep sediment from clogging the stormwater retention area.
Fleming also offered to review the situation free of charge and make other suggestions for options.
A report from Fleming in the village board’s August 26 packet gave some background and listed five options to consider.
According to the report, Ayres Associates had recently completed a study for another nearby community, and the precipitation level has been significantly above average for the last five years.
“Storms or snowfalls have come at times one on top of another, or during times of frost, when there are significant melts. This past winter season of 2018-2019 was a good example. We received over 60 inches of snow in February, on frozen ground, and then had melts and rainstorms in March and April. This caused ponding in areas where traditionally we have not seen it and in slower infiltration rates,” the report states.
The report also notes a large commercial building north of the house Halpin owns. The roof and the driveways of the commercial property drain into a shallow ditch that makes a 90-degree bend to an even more shallow ditch along the east side of the backyard.
Cedar Street was milled and resurfaced several years ago, the report notes, but even if the roadway were lowered six inches, the drainage pattern would not change significantly because the roadway is now “truly impervious.” Before Cedar Street was resurfaced, water could infiltrate on the roadway itself, according to Fleming’s report.
The options Fleming listed would cost anywhere from zero dollars to $500,000.
One option involved doing nothing, which means the area would continue to flood, and the problem would not resolve itself.
Another option focused on developing a long-range plan for installing storm sewers in the area. The estimated cost would be $25,000 to $50,000 for the engineering and another $250,000 to $500,000 for reconstruction of the streets and installation of storm sewers.
Yet another option would involve installing deeper drainage ditches at an estimated cost of $10,000 to $50,000.
Deeper drainage ditches would allow the village to address the problem of roadway water, but deeper ditches along the backyard to deal with run-off from the commercial property would involve the challenge of making sure the ditch did not overflow into the backyard, according to Fleming’s report.
Ditches also would not deal with the fact the house in question does not have gutters, has not had the yard built up to keep water away from the foundation or that a stump was left when a tree was removed years ago and the rotting stump may be allowing water to follow old roots toward the house foundation, according to the report.
Yet another option would involve installing the retention pond on Halpin’s private property.
Fleming estimated the cost, with the fabric added, at $5,000, “however, now you are allowing a private landowner to drain and infiltrate village street water and neighboring commercial property.”
Fleming included a list of questions regarding the installation of a stormwater retention area on Halpin’s property, including whether an easement would be needed and what kind of easement and who assumes the liability if the stormwater retention area does not work and will the landowner make improvements to help the situation such as the installation of gutters on the house?
The last option involved purchasing the property, tearing down the house and regrading the lot so it could be sold for a new building or retained by the village as the site for a future stormwater pond at an estimated cost of $100,000 to $250,000.
At the street committee meeting held before the village board meeting, the street committee recommended the village pay Halpin $1,500 to have the drainage solution installed, with all of the risk being assumed by the property owner, Gunnufson explained to the village board.
The village’s attorney would draft an agreement for the stormwater retention area, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
Chad Berge, village trustee, said he was concerned the stormwater would have chemicals from nearby commercial properties and that the stormwater could present concerns for the groundwater.
All of the risk would be assumed by the landowner, Gunnufson said.
Berge said he was also concerned the stormwater retention pond would not be designed by an engineer to work the most efficiently and effectively.
The stormwater retention area has the potential of “opening up” a void with a conduit to the groundwater, Berge said, and wondered if the environmental concerns would be included in the agreement.
Gunnufson again noted all of the risk would be assumed by the landowner.
A motion for the village board to accept the recommendation of the street committee to pay Halpin $1,500 to install the stormwater retention area failed on vote of three “yes” and three “no.”
Halpin abstained from voting on the motion, and Village Trustees Carey Davis, Margaret Burcham and Keith Burcham voted “no” on the motion, while Gunnufson, Berge and Village Trustee Anne Jenson voted “yes” on the motion.
Davis said he understood the village has some responsibility for the stormwater and the village perhaps added to the situation by resurfacing Cedar Street but that the village was not 100 percent responsible for the stormwater problems in Halpin’s yard.
Davis suggested paying Halpin 60 percent of the estimated cost to install the stormwater retention area, or $919.
“Who will do the landscaping? It’s not my water,” Halpin said.
Is the village planning to reconstruct the street soon? Berge asked.
The village has no immediate plans to reconstruct the street, Gunnufson said.
Davis said he was trying to “keep the peace” with village residents by suggesting 60 percent.
Halpin said he was of the opinion he would be “doing the village a favor” to have a stormwater retention area in his yard to “help out the village.”
The house does not have gutters, and the tree stump was not removed. In addition, the yard has not been landscaped with additional material to keep the water away from the house foundation, said Margaret Burcham, village trustee.
There has been no need to “add dirt” because the house “never had water in the basement before,” Halpin said.
The motion to pay Halpin 60 percent of the estimated cost of installing the stormwater retention area — $919 — was approved on a vote of four “yes” to two “no.”
Halpin again abstained from voting on the motion, and voting “yes” were Davis, Berge, Jenson and Margaret Burcham.
Keith Burcham and Gunnufson both voted “no” on the motion.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved bartender operator’s licenses for Joni Koehler (Synergy Cooperative) and Emily Sedahl (Blind Tiger) from August 26 to June 30, 2020.
• Approved a temporary picnic license for the Colfax firefighters for the Colfax Firefighters’ Ball on September 7.
• Approved a bow hunting permit for Gideon St. Aubin to bow hunt on a 13-acre parcel owned by the village. St. Aubin owns a 26.5 acre adjacent parcel. St. Aubin also asked to have his 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son added to the permit so he could take them with him to teach them how to bow hunt. St. Aubin asked what he should do if someone else is out on the village’s property bow hunting because he had noticed a tree stand when he was walking the property. “Find out who it is,” Davis replied.
• Approved donating $50 to the ZOR Tin Lizzies for the Colfax Firefighters’ Ball parade.
• Approved a resolution designating Dairy State Bank as the public depository for the Community Development Block Grant funds for the wastewater lagoon/Red Cedar River bank project. The village board has already approved Dairy State Bank as the depository, but approval of the resolution confirms Dairy State Bank as the depository, Niggemann explained.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the village to borrow $630,000 from Dairy State Bank for the wastewater lagoon/Red Cedar River bank project. The village board approved borrowing the money at the April 22 meeting, but approval of the formal resolution is needed to move forward with the loan, Niggemann said. The Community Development Block Grant will provide money to the village for the wastewater lagoon/Red Cedar River bank project, but part of the requirement for obtaining CDBG funding is that Colfax secure a loan for the money, pay for the project with the loan, and then submit requests for reimbursement from the CDBG funds. The $1.6 million project is expected to start in 2020.