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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board’s public property committee is planning to develop a capital improvement plan.
The public property committee met before the village board meeting November 13 to receive a report on the condition and history of the municipal building basement, said Gary Stene, village trustee and chair of the public property committee, at the Colfax Village Board’s November 13 meeting.
The public property committee met in late August and had asked for specific information on why the basement of the Colfax Municipal Building has been closed to the public.
According to a report from Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library, a state building inspector closed the basement to the public in 1998 after a suspected dishwasher leak in the basement.
The state inspector cited asbestos around the old furnace, no eye wash station, and the placement of pipes carrying steam as reasons for closing the basement for public use.
Bragg-Hurlburt also is a member of the Colfax Elevator Commission, which has been working on raising funds for installing an elevator in the building.
The municipal building project, in addition to installing an elevator to serve all three floors to make the building handicapped accessible, would include remodeling the basement into a useable space and installing bathrooms on all three floors (basement, main floor and auditorium).
The public property committee is planning to work on a capital improvement plan for Colfax’s public properties, Stene said.
The plan will include the location of properties owned by the Village of Colfax, the conditions the properties are in, and a plan for the improvement of public properties, including information on what to do fix the public properties, he said.
The Colfax Elevator Commission has raised nearly $140,000, Bragg-Hurlburt said during the November 13 meeting, noting that the fund raising has included more than an additional $7,000 since she last reported to the village board in August.
If the village applies for and receives Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, that would provide money for two-thirds of a $1 million project, she said.
With the amount of money the elevator commission has currently raised, that would leave a village responsibility of about $200,000, Bragg-Hurlburt said.
The elevator commission plans to continue fund raising and writing grant applications to close the gap between what the commission has already raised and the share the village might have to pay, she said.
To put it somewhat into perspective, the village paid $350,000 to rebuild Cedar Street this year.
“We are closer than a lot of people realize (with the possibility of CDBG funding),” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
Remodeling the basement into a useable space and making it handicapped accessible would provide additional space for library programs, such as Story Time or Lego Club or various book clubs.
The basement also would then be available for community activities.
Colfax, unlike other communities in Dunn County, does not have a community center.
During a meeting of the Colfax Elevator Commission earlier this year, representatives for Cedar Corporation said there is no limit to the number of times the village could apply for CDBG funds and could keep applying until the grant is awarded.
In 2011, the village invested $284,000 in the municipal building for asbestos abatement demolition, concrete, carpentry, roofing work, windows, painting plumbing, HVAC and electrical work.
The $284,000 was covered by a $179,300 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant and a donation of more than $100,000 from the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group, according to Bragg-Hurlburt’s report.
In 2013, the village paid $16,000 for mold clean-up in the basement, and in 2016, the village paid nearly $56,000 to A Breeze Construction to address exterior water infiltration problems that affected the basement, the report states.
The work by A Breeze Construction has largely solved the water problems in the basement, although there are few damp spots from time to time that must be addressed.
The $16,000 and the $56,000 came out of the village’s designated fund for village hall improvements that had previously been derived from various sources and was not part of the property tax levy.
The majority of the $356,000 in work that has been done on the municipal building in the past 10 years has come from grants, donations and funds previously designated for the village hall and has not been put on the property tax levy for any given year.
Street improvements in Colfax in recent years have, for the most part, been put on the property tax levy.
The Colfax Public Library receives two-thirds of its funding from Dunn County to account for usage of the library by people who are not residents of the Village of Colfax.
According to John Thompson, director of IFLS (formerly known the Indianhead Federated Library System), at a recent library funding meeting in October, Dunn County is unusual because the county provides more funding for libraries than is provided by local residents of the municipality.
Bragg-Hurlburt also gave a report to the village board on library activities in October.
Total circulation for the month was 2,946, and 656 items were requested by other libraries. A total of 246 people used the library’s free wireless signal, there were 424 e-book checkouts, which are not included in the circulation number, and there were 582 website page views, according to the report.
The Colfax Public Library receives courier deliveries three times per week of anywhere from two bins to six or eight bins of materials that people have ordered from other libraries because it is not available in Colfax, Bragg-Hurlburt said.
The items Colfax receives from other libraries for use by Colfax patrons is not included in the circulation number, she said.
The Colfax Public Library had four morning Story Times, four afternoon Story Times and one evening Story Time in October, with attendance of 93 children and 60 adults, the report states.
Lego Club in October had 13 children and five adults, while 38 children worked on drop-in holiday crafts, and nine adults came to Book Club and 25 people attended a family movie that was shown in the auditorium, according to the report.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a bartender operator’s license from November 13 to June 30, 2024, for Samuel Lindgren (Viking Bowl and Lounge), Donna Weix (Viking Bowl and Lounge) and Ashley Youngberg (Mom’s Restaurant and Pub).
• Approved paying an invoice in the amount of $56,821.50 to Pomasl Fire Equipment for the chassis for the new ambulance. The chassis has now been sent to the facility where the ambulance will be built, and delivery is expected in 12 to 18 months, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer. The funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) can cover the expense, she said.
• Approved a contract with Dunn County to collect the village’s first and second installments of property taxes for 2024. The cost is $2.35 per parcel, and the cost has not changed, although the number of parcels will change, Niggemann said.
• Approved a contract with Fred Weber/Weber Inspections to be the village’s building inspector for 2024. Weber Inspections collects all permit fees from the owner and/or the contractor to cover the cost of building inspections. The Village of Colfax does not incur any cost for the inspections.
• Learned that an ambulance crew had received a bouquet of flowers and a thank you for being there when someone’s father suffered a medical emergency. “We do not hear it very often, but it sure does feel nice to be recognized for doing our job,” Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, wrote in his report.