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Rib Lake keeps playground, park pavilion closed due to COVID-19 risk

The Rib Lake Village Board at its meeting on June 10 voted to keep the playgrounds and Lakeview Park pavilion closed for now.

Trustee Russ Bullis asked if the village did open the pavilion and playgrounds, how would it sanitize them. Village president Bill Schreiner said the village told the senior center it was the obligation of the group using the building to sanitize it when they leave. Trustee George Tesch said they have the same policy for people renting the Ice Age Pavilion as well. Village clerk Dawn Swenson added who ever rents the pavilion is required to clean it in order to get half of their deposit back and hopefully they would do a better job now.

Bullis said he understands people are calling about opening the pavilion and playground. “The state is going to be opening their campgrounds but the group camping shelters, amphitheaters, towers, shelters, playgrounds and everything else will remain closed because there is just no way of sanitizing them often enough when you’re using them all the time.”

“But how could playgrounds ever be opened?” asked trustee Keith Hanke.

Police chief Derek Beckstrand said the city of Altoona put out signs at its playgrounds telling people to play at their own risk. Schreiner added there were a number of children using the playground equipment by the village hall on Memorial Day weekend.

“And that holds up if something happens?” Bullis asked. “We tried that at the ballpark and we had a lawyer tell us that sign isn’t as good as the printing on it. That would not hold up in court. ‘Play at your own risk’ doesn’t work. I know there are kids on the playground, but we’re still legally closed. Myself personally, I’m not in favor of opening them.”

Bullis went on to say when the board opened the bathrooms at the campground, the village made sure it hired someone to come in and clean them, but that was not going to happen on a playground.

“I think people learned a lot by social distancing,” Schreiner said. “If you’re uncomfortable, just don’t go.”

“We’re not forcing anybody to go there,” trustee Jack Buksa added.

“I’d like to see that shelter opened, but it’s a board decision” Schreiner said.

“We would have to set guidelines on what we would want them to do if we do open the shelter,” Bullis said.

Schreiner agreed. “We would do it the same as the senior center. You have to sanitize it when you’re done.”

Trustee Vernell Van Hecker asked how would the village know if it was done. Bullis agreed, saying it was the honor system.

Schreiner said if he was renting the shelter, the first thing he would do would be to wash down and sanitize everything before using it. Van Hecker agreed, but said there are some people who won’t bother doing that.

Following further discussion in which the trustees tossed around several suggestions, the board approved keeping the shelter and playground closed for now and to revisit the issue at its next meeting in July. In the meantime, the board will seek guidance on the issue from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Sewer compliance report

The board reviewed and approved the annual sewer compliance maintenance report.

The village received an A in all categories except for a B in biosolids quality and management. Dan Koehler said the reason the village received a 10-point reduction in that category was because he had been failing to take soil samples from the fields where the village spreads its sludge for over a four-year period. Koehler said the former public works director took the samples and so he was never involved in it. “Okay, now we found out someone has to do it and we didn’t, so we’re in the process of making that up right now. Other than that, we had straight As across the board.”

Bullis asked Koehler if the village was seeing much of a difference in the amount of water that seeps into the sewer system from outside sources. Koehler said it was still a big issue.

Schreiner asked if the village had to temporarily stop Black River Transport from emptying holding tank waste at the sewer plant when there is a heavy rainfall. Koehler said not, noting that Black River Transport has had very little impact on the sewer plant. He added an incident occurred in May when there was very little rain and there was a jump of 3,000 gallons passing through the plant for no reason. Koehler said on the same day, the sewer plant in Chelsea also experienced a jump of 3,000 gallons passing through their plant for no reason. He said this raised red flags with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that someone may be doing illegal dumping. Koehler said he alerted the public work employees to watch for manhole covers in the village that don’t look like they’re properly sealed. “The only truck that should be in this town is Black River. Nobody else, unless they’re driving through on [Hwy] 102 or something like that.” Koehler went on to say the DNR had indicted they have had some problems with some illegal activity and were trying to catch the individuals involved. “They’ll lose their license instantly and they’ll be out of business.”

Swenson asked Koehler why he thought the village still had so much water seeping into the system.

Bullis said he was wondering that too, saying the village had done a lot of sewer work around the village as part of the treatment plant project and that the village was hoping that would reduce the problem. He asked Koehler if he thought it was sump pump related. Koehler said he was beginning to believe so. “We only seem to have a problem when we have a lot of rain like we did last night.”

Bullis asked how quickly does the excess water pass through the plant. Koehler replied almost immediately. “So that would indicate to me that there are some sump pumps that are hooked up to the sewer system, which they shouldn’t be to start with.” He said the village should locate those sump pumps when the village begins cross connection control inspections sometime this summer. “I think we have a lot more sump pumps hooked up to the sewer system than a lot of people think,” Koehler said. “It’s illegal so they will be written up and will have to either correct it or be fined.”

In other business, board members:

_ Approved a quote of $6,000 from McMillan Electric in Medford to rewire and upgrade the electrical system in the municipal building to handle current demand.

_ Approved spending $4,718 to replace the computer in the police squad vehicle which can not be upgraded to work with the new dashboard camera. Because it wasn’t on the agenda, the board will approve transferring $5,000 from the contingency fund to the public safety fund to cover the extra expense at the July meeting.

_ Approved donating $1,300 for the fireworks display on July 4, providing the fireworks are not cancelled before then.

_ Approved a request from the Rib Lake Public Library to set up a “story walk” display along the Hwy 102 pathway. The display would consist of a series of “realtor for sale” type signs holding laminated pages for a story book that people could read as they walked. The story would be changed several times a year. Librarian Krista Blomberg said if the display goes well and people think it’s a good addition to the community, the library would seek grant funding or ask local businesses to sponsor more permanent signs along the pathway.

_ Approved Class B liquor license applications from Bird’s Nest, Little Bohemia, Drink Slingers, Northside Cafe and Camp 28; Class A liquor license applications from Ed’s IGA, Medford Co-op, C& G Mini-Mart and Dollar General; cigarette license applications from Ed’s IGA, C& G Mini-Mart, Medford Co-op, Drink Slingers and Dollar General; and an operator’s license application from Donald Broeske.