Flood protection

The Village of DeForest is considering purchasing Aqua Dams to help with flooding prevention. Here is an example of one protecting a house.

As conversations about flood prevention measures continue, the DeForest Village Board is honing in a plan.

At its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5, the board was presented with six options at costs ranging from $204,000 to $606,000. Some of them employ Aqua Dams, which could save the village some money.

Public Works Project Coordinator Greg Hall said two people can easily deploy an Aqua Dam, which is a portable, water-filled cofferdam that can be made to the village’s specifications.

“It can be used for prevention before a storm and it can also be used during a storm,” said Hall.

Hall said they come in lengths of 50 feet, with heights of 6 feet. For the village’s purposes, DeForest is looking at a 3-foot height.

Trustee Jane Cahill-Wolfgram said it sounded like an “instant sandbag.” Hall affirmed that description.

Director of Public Service Kelli Bialkowski said deploying the Aqua Dams in flooded areas would allow the village to focus on filling sandbags to help in other spots.

The biggest and most expensive piece of the proposed solutions involves making improvements to the Yankee Basin to increase its capacity. The project was introduced in October. Originally, the work was expected to cost $1.5 million, with the village pursuing grant money to offset some of the costs – possibly by as much as $500,000. Trustees expressed concern over the price tag, and village officials are now looking at capping its share of the cost of that work at $250,000.

Bialkowski said the $250,000 for Yankee Basin improvements was a placeholder, as village officials looked for a dollar amount they were comfortable with for the village’s portion if they got grant funding for the project.

Option 1 would include the Yankee Basin improvements, along with upsized storm pipe, curb and intersection improvements to Holum Street and the purchase of a leaf-vac truck at a cost of $606,000.

Next comes Option 2, which includes everything in Option 1, except the Yankee Basin improvements. The total cost is estimated at $356,000. Option 3 trims away both the Yankee Basin work and the leaf-vac truck and costs $204,000.

Similar to Option 1, minus the Holum Street work, Option 4 is priced at $456,000, while Option 5 comprises the Yankee Basin improvements, bigger storm pipe, the leaf-vac truck and Aqua Dam at a cost of $486,000. Option 6 includes all of that, except the Yankee Basin work, for an anticipated cost of $236,000.

Trustee Jeff Miller favors Option 5, noting that the Holum Street work seems unnecessary.

In writing a recommendation sheet to the board, Bialkowski wrote that the Holum Street intersection improvements were contemplated after last spring’s flood event. The hope was that the work would stop stormwater from flowing over the curb at the intersection of Holum Street and Cleveland Avenue.

However, among the capital improvement projects being considered for the village is a reconstruction of Holum Street in 2026. Bialkowski wrote, “A larger capital project (larger street reconstruction) would provide more opportunities to resolve the issues along with avoiding the throw away costs.”

Staff have been researching Aqua Dams as a possible alternative in the interim. At a cost of $30,000 versus $150,000 worth of Holum Street intersection improvements, Aqua Dams could provide flood solutions not just at one location, but for more multiple sites, at a bargain. Hall said they could go down Holum Street if they thought there was a need there.

Village President Judd Blau cautioned that protocols regarding Aqua Dam usage should be put in place to alert neighbors to move their vehicles. Also, he hopes they would direct water where village officials want it to go in flood events.

Trustee Jason Kramar threw his support behind Option 6, saying the $1.5 million for the Yankee Basin improvements “wouldn’t give what we want for the money.” Kramar said that routine maintenance at Yankee Basin should be done every three to five years to remove sediment. He added, “I don’t want to be fearmongered into spending a million dollars.”

Trustee Colleen Little agreed with Kramar about Option 6, as did Blau. Little said she didn’t think the cost of the Yankee Basin project was worth it. Blau said the increased capacity wouldn’t prevent what happened in the spring.

However, Blau also said he’d be more comfortable with the Yankee Basin work if the village’s cost was capped at $250,000.

Miller commented that the Yankee Basin work would help, but there was no guarantee it would stop flooding. Miller also said that when Yankee Basin was put in, it helped control flooding in the area near the high school.

Trustee Abigail Lowery said she was leaning toward Option 5. She said the increase in big rain events “warrants being aggressive with anti-flooding efforts.” Fellow Trustee Jane Cahill-Wolfgram feels a multi-faceted approach to flooding prevention is needed and voiced support for Option 5. Miller agreed, but said he also wanted to hear ideas for dealing with ice chunks clogging up pipes that contributed to last spring’s flooding, also caused by frozen ground and a fast thaw.

No action was taken on the matter on Tuesday. Bialkowski explained that officials would proceed in going for grant money and to move forward with the purchase of a leaf-vac truck.

Honoring Van Meter, leaving seat unfilled

The village board also unanimously passed a resolution thanking Virgil “Chip” Van Meter for his dedicated service to the Village of DeForest following his resignation as a trustee.

Trustees also discussed whether or not to leave his seat unfilled until the spring elections. Blau said it was his preference to do so, saying the board still has six members and that it wouldn’t be until the first meeting in December until nominations could be presented. He said an appointee would become a “pseudo incumbent.”

Trustees Little, Kramar and Cahill-Wolfgram said they supported leaving it unfilled. Lowery dissented, as she expressed concerns about the seat being left empty for more than six months.

“We’re a seven-member board for a reason,” said Lowery.

Van Meter talked at the meeting about his decision to leave the board.

“My resigning due to health reasons did not come easy, I fought making this decision as long as I could and after some deep thinking, I decided the time is now,” said Van Meter. “I want to thank all my supporters who have voted for me over the past years and I am sorry that I must step down. I strongly urge our residents to run for office and give back to our wonderful community. I also will urge those who are in office now, or will run for office to leave your personal, your group or political party philosophy on the porch and represent everyone equally.”

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