Owen Council reviews federal grants, new water and sewer charts

Nicole Rogers

Owen Council reviews federal grants, new water and sewer charts

4 min
February 13, 2022

By Nicole Rogers

The Owen Common Council met Feb. 8. In attendance were:Mayor Charlie Milliren, Joan Jalling, Ken Martine, Pam Jaffke, Bob Wilczek,John Mauel, Allen Wagner, Clerk/Treasurer Tracy Rau, DPW Chad Smith and CDC TimSwiggum. Public present included: Cindy Cardinal, O-W Enterprise; Nicole Rogers, Sentinel & Rural News; Matthew Riihinen; Mark Hanson; and Russ Kiviniemi, Cedar Corp Representative.

Riverside Cemetery Financial Statement

Riverside Cemetery treasurer Pat Blazer submitted a financial report to the city for informational purposes. The statement for the month ending Dec. 31, 2021, revealed total receipts - $41,942.87; total disbursements - $63,866.61, checking account balance - $11,512.07; Perpetual Care and Investments total - $139,348.78; Xcel stock purchase price -$20,756.00; and current value of 868 shares at $43 - $37,324.00.

It was noted that the city of Owen pays approximately $3,200per year for upkeep. The association also includes the village of Withee, and the townships of Hixon and Longwood.

The columbaria are now 50 percent full and there are plans to build another one that will fit about 96 people. Clerk Rau said that Blazer had reported there is no room at ground level to which a clever citizen quipped“what about underground?”

The stone fence will need to be cost about $60,000 to replace. “It may look like they have a lot of money, but they do not,” Rau explained. “That is why Pat wanted to explain the report.”

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Russ Kiviniemi of Cedar Corp filled in for Brian Chapman to explain the new funding program. This program has $ 1.29 billion provided for the State of Wisconsin for the next five years. Only 15 percent will go to smaller communities like the size of Owen. He highlighted grant programs for which the city may want to apply. There is $194 million available in The Surface Transportation Program Local (STP-Local) which the city may want toutilize. This is for local roads; and in the past, a smaller community would not have qualified because the city had to have a major collector road or be above 5,000 population. The new grant is 80/20 program 80 percent grant and 20 percent match for street and storm sewer type projects. Due to the federal funding, there are more strings attached and the plans, and they must go through a DOT format. The DOT does all the bidding for the design plans.Kiviniemi explained that there are additional engineering costs not typically seen.

Grant applications for which Owen may be interested in are due on June 1. This grant may be used for Willow Road, Poplar, First and Second Street improvement projects; the bike trail repair may also be eligible for a grant.

If the city were to be approved for this program, the construction would not happen until 2025 or 2026.

After the presentation and discussion Wilczek made a motion to move forward in applying for the Bipartisan Infrastructure grants, all members approved the motion.

Public Works Report

DWP Chad Smith gave a detailed report on Municipal Water,Sanitary Sewer and the Streets Department. Smith said he has been doing an energy audit with the WI Rural Water Association. The audit showed Well No. 14,located across from the Holy Rosary Church, was the lowest producing only 5,000gallons per day, which is not efficient, and he thought should be shut down.Well No. 3 is the most efficient pump, at 17-22,000 gallons a day, but still not efficient as it should be. The best producing well is No. 6 pushing out 24– 34,000 gallons per day. Smith discovered that a charge for the booster station was billed incorrectly; it should have been under municipal water; fixing this would save the city $293 per month.

PSC Response Letter

Smith told the council an individual had recently filed a complaint with Public Service Commission (PSC), due to a high water bill. The PSC gave a list of data needed, and he sent all that was required.

The response letter stated that he was in full compliance with the PSC and the meter in question was okay.

Smith said there is another individual who is complaining of a high bill; he investigated the residence, found leaks in the house.

He will encourage anyone with a complaint to contact the PSC. In response to a comment that Smith does not have complete water records,he spent time documenting the following: water pumped vs. water sold, a cross connection report, a PSC W-23 count; high/low water pumped, and a PSC inventory list. Smith shared all the spreadsheets with the council. These charts will help with future PSC compliance reports or future questions by the citizens.

Sewer Report

Smith had reported at a previous meeting that sewer rates must be raised to balance the budget, as it was in the red by nearly $174,000.As it turns out, the rate increase was vitally important for another reason.Rau recently received a call from the USDA that the city’s Clean Water Fund Loan was not in compliance.

USDA representative, Kathy Miller reviewed the last audit,and the budget revealed the deficits and discovered the noncompliance. The budget needed to show they would be able to pay back the loan, which it did not without raising the sewer rates a significant amount.

The new sewer rate increase corrected this deficit, and the city is now in good standing with the USDA. This could have been a huge problem resulting in the USDA calling for an immediate payment of the water loan.

In the process of reviewing the budget, Smith and Rau questioned why a depreciation was moved up to an asset. It may have made it possible to balance the budget; however, no accusations were raised just questions.The council agreed that the auditor should have caught this earlier.

No Build Easement/Park Property Land Use Agreement

Tammy and Bob Tomczak, owner/operators of Little Tykes Learn and Play Daycare, bought a building at 214 N. Central Avenue – property once owned by Jen LaRock – to open a second daycare. They have requested an easement at the back of the property between their building and the dentist office to build a play area. The requests were approved. It was stipulated the owners are responsible for upkeep of lawn and show proof of insurance.

Zoning Public Hearing for Countryside Lots

The Planning Committee met with Jacob and Scott Nagel to discuss the sale of Lots No. 18, 19 and 20 in Countryside Estates. The offer is contingent upon getting it approved through zoning, as the plan is to build one four-plex this year and one next year. The area is not zoned for this, so it will go to zoning to secure a conditional use permit. The Nagels offered $7,500for the three lots. The committee countered at $9,000 which would include curb and gutter. The council agreed to send the plan to a Zoning Committee.

This article was orginally reported by
Nicole Rogers

Nicole Rogers, lives in Owen, WI, and is the co-editor for the Sentinel & Rural News.