Colfax Elevator Commission has raised nearly $125,000 towards purchase and installation
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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — To date, the Colfax Elevator Commission has raised nearly $125,000 to put toward installing an elevator at the Colfax Municipal Building.
The money has been raised through pledges, donations, memorials, the $22 for 22 Steps campaign, thrift sales and other fund-raising events.
Almost $22,000 has been raised through the $22 for 22 Steps campaign, said Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library and a member of the elevator commission.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented holding any in-person events in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium as fund raisers for the elevator project for much of 2020 and 2021.
Elevator commission members decided in October of 2020 that the $22 for 22 Steps campaign would be a safe way to raise money for the project without mass gatherings of people that could expose them to the SARS-CoV-2 virus since no vaccines were available at that time.
The 22 Steps campaign is named for the 22 back steps in the municipal building leading from the main floor to the auditorium. Installing an elevator along the west wall of the building would require removing the 22 steps.
All of the money raised by the elevator commission is deposited into a Village of Colfax designated fund for the municipal building elevator.
The elevator project that has been under consideration would improve handicapped accessibility to all three floors of the Colfax Municipal Building and would include refurbishing the basement into a space that could be used for Colfax Public Library events and for community events. The proposed project would also include rest rooms for all three floors of the building.
The basement of the municipal building has been closed to the public for about 25 years. Water damage to the basement resulted in mold and mildew and damaged the original maple wood flooring that was subsequently removed as part of the effort to clean up the basement.
In years past, the municipal building basement was used for a variety of events for 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Brownies and Cub Scouts, for church bazaars, for banquets for organizations, for the Red Cross Bloodmobile, for Colfax Woman’s Club events — and for just about anything else you can think of.
Some senior members of the Colfax community also remember roller skating in the municipal building basement.
In the years after the basement was closed to the public, groups, clubs and organizations have had to find other places to meet and hold events since Colfax does not have a community center.
In addition to the money raised for the 22 Steps campaign, the elevator fund has received nearly $19,000 in memorial donations, Hurlburt said.
In the past three months, there have been donations in memory of Kyle (Kyote) Laramy, Reuben Knutson, Kenny Rothbauer, Juverna Hilson, Phyllis Cardin Sarauer, Mary Cooley and Gail Svee, she said.
The elevator commission also has raised nearly $15,000 from the thrift sales held at the Colfax Fairgrounds in August.
People have donated a wide variety of items for the thrift sales such as clothing, toys, games, books, dishes and furniture.
Several estates have donated items to the thrift sale as well.
In November of 2021, Troy Knutson embarked on a letter-writing campaign to raise money for the elevator project, Hurlburt said.
Knutson sent out letters to Colfax High School alumni, and as a result, raised at least $13,000, she said.
The amount for the letter campaign is listed as “at least” because some later donations may also have been a result of the letters, but the donations arrived after February of 2022 and were not counted as strictly letter-writing campaign donations, Hurlburt said.
Following a certain amount of time after the $22 for 22 Steps campaign started, if the donation was not exactly $22, the donation was not counted as part of that campaign, she said.
“None of these numbers are exact for the different campaigns because there is probably overlap,” Hurlburt said.
In addition to cash raised through campaigns and fund-raising events, the elevator fund total also contains some pledges.
The Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group has pledged a certain amount toward the elevator fund but has not actually donated the money and still maintains control of the funds.
The Colfax Public Library Board also has pledged a certain amount of money in funds kept by the village that are designated for library improvements. The money has either been designated by the library board for library improvements or has been designated by the village board for library improvements, or the funds have been the result of money left over from the library budget when a particular budget year ended.
The Colfax Elevator Commission had been working with Cedar Corporation out of Menomonie on preliminary plans for the elevator and improvements to the municipal building basement.
Cedar Corporation started working on a Community Development Block Grant planning grant.
The elevator commission recommended applying for the planning grant, and the village board approved contracting with Cedar Corp in September of 2020.
The CDBG planning grant would have been a first step in applying for CDBG funds from the federal government for up to $1 million to complete the elevator project.
The CDBG funds are awarded on a two-to-one basis, so if the elevator project were $1.5 million, and Colfax was awarded a grant for $1 million, the elevator commission would have to raise $500,000.
Estimates from 2018 are that the elevator project would cost around $700,000, although with the annual increase in construction costs estimated at as much as 10 percent, the cost for the project would now be closer to $1 million.
The planning grant application was delayed because a family member of a Cedar Corp employee had died due to complications from COVID-19.
Cedar Corp had planned to use the $16,000 planning grant to complete a facilities analysis. The village’s $5,340 portion of the planning grant would have been paid out of the elevator fund.
Representatives from Cedar Corp subsequently learned that renovation and remodeling projects are not eligible for Community Development Block Grant planning funds and that only new construction is eligible.
In the time since Cedar Corporation started working with the elevator commission, the senior planner working on the project has retired.
The elevator commission is now back to square one, so to speak, on plans for the project, although commission members continue to raise funds for the elevator and renovations.
The elevator commission is planning to meet with representatives from at least one other architectural firm this spring on preliminary plans for the building.
The elevator commission anticipates asking for basic plans (handicapped accessibility for the basement and renovation of the basement to include rest rooms), intermediate plans (handicapped accessibility for the basement, renovation of the basement, handicapped accessibility to the main floor and new rest rooms for the main floor), and advanced plans (handicapped accessibility for all three floors, renovation of the basement and rest rooms for all three floors).
Hurlburt also has been in contact with the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to see if that organization could provide any assistance or insight for the elevator commission, such as grant opportunities.
If no grants are available for the municipal building, elevator commission members have briefly discussed the idea of using the funds raised so far to make the basement handicapped accessible, to remodel the basement into a useable space and to continue the work on an elevator and rest rooms for the rest of the building at a later date.