New alderman, wastewater report approved by council

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Mark Bowar

Bowar fills vacant spot left after Ziegler’s resignation

By Steve Van Kooten


The Prairie du Chien Common Council has struggled to keep its roster full over the last year. Between October 2023 and April 2024, the fourth district lost Karen Solomon, then the seat became vacant, then it was filled by Carlos Cantero, Jr. and then it was vacated again.

In the April elections, Bob Granzow filled the seat, giving the council a full line up for the first time in months. But a few weeks later, Kelssi Ziegler submitted her resignation after she moved out of the third district.

At the June 4 meeting, the council brought in a new representative for the third district. Mark Bowar was appointed at the beginning of the meeting and immediately assumed his seat.

“I wanted to give a hand,” Bowar told the Courier Press. He added that he returned to Prairie in 2019 from Brookfield, Wisconsin. “I’ve always wanted to come back and help out Prairie du Chien.”

Mayor David Hemmer and City Administrator Chad Abram met with Bowar to discuss the position. According to Bowar, Ziegler recommended him to the council.

Currently, Bowar works as an inclusionist with the Prairie du Chien School District, providing academic assistance for students with individualized learning plans.

Bowar joined alderpersons Nick Crary, Vicki Waller, Granzow, Pam Kiesau, Jaaren Riebe and Andy Ringgold. Kayla Ingham was absent for the meeting.

Along with Hemmer and Abram, City Planner Nate Gilberts, Utilities Director Larry Gates and Police Chief Kyle Teynor were in attendance.


Wastewater reports

Gates submitted the 2023 Wastewater Compliance Maintenance Annual Report to the council for approval. The utilities department completes the report annually.

“As you’re aware, we’re looking at a possible plant upgrade in the future, and this shows there’s some areas that we need those plant upgrades,” said Gates. The facility received a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 out of four.

Areas graded in the report included influent flow into the plant, effluent flow of contaminants and other chemicals, financial management, operator education and sewer collection system performance, among others.

The 2023 flood contributed to some of the report’s areas of concern, including the sewer collection system.

“In the collection system, we got an A, but we still had to report during the flood last year in May. We had our North Main Lift Station go down. It was just overcome by the flood waters, and both pumps went down.” The report added that the station’s pumps were replaced after the 2023 flood.

The facility’s received a C grade for its effluent phosphorous performance.

“We had so much flow coming into the plant [during the flood] it affected the plant hydraulically,” said Gates. Phosphates are added to water systems to prevent metals from being released into drinking water. Too much phosphate released from wastewater facilities can have adverse effects on the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, the report said the plant encountered problems with its variable frequency drive (VFD) in December 2023, which helped cause a high phosphorous level. Since that time, the drive and an aeration pipe leak have been repaired.

A VFD controls the flow of sewage through the wastewater pumps and regulates flow through the facility.

The report noted two future projects: a $1.8 million water quality trading project, which would allow the city to obtain water credits to offset non-compliance with the amount of phosphates getting released into the water systems, and a $10.6 million plant upgrade tentatively scheduled for 2026.

Gates also brought a 2023 Consumer Confidence Report for the water department for the council’s approval. The report is an annual requirement from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The report contains publicly available information about the city’s water systems, including the wells, contaminant testing results and violations.

At the meeting, the primary concern involved the high level of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in the city’s well number two. PFAS are a group of chemicals found in a myriad of everyday products, including candy wrappers, photographs and aluminum pans, among many others. The chemicals are linked to adverse health effects in animals and plants, including cancer, organ disease and developmental defects.

Gates said, “As you’re aware, PFAS is now on the radar and forever will be because it’s a forever chemical, and those results are on there too, showing that well two has increased levels.”

Gates added that well two had an increase in PFAS year-over-year; the city shut down the well due to the high levels present when tested earlier this year.

“We’re investigating what we do in the future,” said Gates. “Whether we abandon it or we decide to treat it, the big question is money. Where is this all going to come from?”

According to Gates, a treatment for PFAS called reverse osmosis exists; however, it’s utilized for smaller, residential wells. The alternative is for the city to abandon the well and make a new one.

“In talking with the DNR, if we can produce wells that have zero [PFAS], we’re better off with it instead of trying to treat something that keeps on increasing and increasing,” said Gates.

The city still has three working wells, which Gates said can produce enough water for Prairie du Chien’s needs.

The council approved both the compliance report and the consumer confidence report. The confidence report will be made available to the public online. A link to the report will be proffered to residents on their water bills.


Parking near ballfields

Kiesau brought a concern to the council about parking near Cecil Smith Ballparks.

“The parking that happens at the ballpark and the road against St. John’s [Catholic Church] is so congested during the summer. As slow as you go, and I’ve lived there for about 20 years, kids dart out. I’m worried it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Hemmer added, “It was that way tonight when I came. They had that ball game, and it was pretty tight getting through there.”

She added that the area was a safety hazard, with little room for two-lane traffic when cars begin parking on both sides of the road.

The council took no action, and the matter may be up for discussion at a later meeting.


Fort Crawford standards

The council considered the Second Fort Crawford District Design Standards, which, if approved, would place criteria on new construction, repairs and additional architectural, utilities and landscaping work done to property that falls within the district in order to preserve, protect and maintain the historical value of the area.

The standards also mandated new construction conform to designs present in the district and the time period, primarily the late 1800s.

The Second Fort Crawford District, approved in 2021 by the common council, includes historical and archaeologically significant areas, including the Fort Crawford Museum, the Fort Crawford Hospital and Lawler Lofts, among many others.

“Basically, it’s similar to what they did with the Blackhawk area,” said Gilberts. “There’s a couple residents that would be affected by this. I think it’s three homes.”

The Design and Preservation Commission approved the new standards at their May 6 meeting.

Gilberts did not know if the property owners were aware of the standards and the council meeting. Riebe suggested the design standards be held over for a future meeting.


Hayden Street PSA

The council approved and adopted a professional services agreement (PSA) with Vierbecher Associates for the extension of Hayden Street.

“This is part of the situation from last week in closed session. We came into open session to make two motions: one to move forward with the Prairie Bluffs Cottages, and the second was a land acquisition next to that property,” Abram said. “With this, we would do the Hayden Street extension that’s in [the city’s] comprehensive plan.”

Vierbecher Associates works with the City of Prairie du Chien as a civil engineering firm. In the past, they have worked on the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library and street expansions, among many other projects.

The Hayden Street project will include the construction of approximately 700 feet of roadway from Dousman Street to the driveway at the ECO Cottages, according to the PSA agreement. The project will include sanitary sewer, water mains and storm sewer extensions from Ohio Street to the east side of Hayden Street, along with curb and gutter construction. An additional 220 feet of sanitary sewers and water mains will extend into the cottages’ development site.

The PSA listed the preliminary project cost at $628,000. Vierbecher’s PSA agreement listed the cost for their services at $43,220 for the scope of services on the utilities work, which includes surveys, permits, bidding and contract awards, construction administration and staking, and $13,760 for the scope of services on the Hayden Street extension, which includes design, surveys, construction administration and staking.

The PSA lists August 2024 as a construction start date and October 2024 as a tentative completion date.

The council approved the PSA with Vierbecher’s.


Other business

• Abram said the city and Crossing Rivers expected to close on the property on State Street, commonly called “the old hospital property,” on Wednesday, June 19.

• The swimming pool opened to the public on June 6, and lifeguard positions were still open.

• approved a mutual aid resolution between the City of Prairie du Chien and Allamakee County, Iowa. Abram said Tad Beutin, Prairie’s fire chief, had been working with both departments in Allamakee County. “They have had a resolution adopted and sent off to the attorney general to sign off on. Under our state statutes, we can adopt a municipal resolution to allow the fire department to assist them or them to assist us.” Abram confirmed the agreement covered all of Allamakee County.

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