Committee approves reapplying for dam grants
The Taylor County Forestry Committee at its meeting Monday agreed to wait two years and reapply for grant funding to replace the Camp 8 and Chelsea Lake dams.
The county had applied for 50/50 grant funding to replace the sluice gate on Miller Dam and the dams at Camp 8 and Chelsea. The Miller Dam project was approved for funding, but the county lost out on grants for the other two projects.
Projects are awarded points based on a range of criteria with projects with higher points getting funding first. The grant application for the Camp 8 project was docked 20 points because Ayres Associates failed to comply with a section requiring project plans to be submitted 30 days prior to the February 28 grant deadline. This caused the project to miss being funded by one point. Forest administrator Jake Walcisak said he had appealed the points and ranking decision for both the Camp 8 and Chelsea Lake dams with Tanya Lourigan, head dam safety engineer with the DNR, but the appeal was turned down.
“So we’re going to bear the brunt of our engineer screwing up,” said committee member Gene Knoll.
“I do agree that the engineer needs to be held accountable in some way,” said committee chairman Chuck Zenner. “I don’t know how much, but we did pay them $4,000 to submit this application to the DNR and they missed the deadline. I know it didn’t matter in the past, but to me, that’s a poor excuse.”
Knoll said the county needs to have its corporate counsel review the issue. “I guess I thought about it for awhile and I feel they really messed up.”
Forest administrator Jake Walcisak said while the agreement with Ayres Associates protects both the county and Ayres well, he didn’t think there is any language specifically in it to protect the county if Ayres “screwed up” the grant application. He said if Ayres had made a mistake in some engineering calculation services, then they would be “on the hook” for it.
Walcisak said he had contacted the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and they approved his request to extend the directive concerning the spillway on the Camp 8 dam for two years. He said this will allow for the county to apply for funding in the next grant application cycle without missing a directive, which would cost the county points on the application. Walcisak said the county will also have to do a spillway realignment and put up a new sign in order to keep the dam in compliance.
Walcisak said Ayres has offered to refund the county $1,250 for each of the grant application fee for the Camp 8 Dam and Chelsea Dam projects. He said the way this would likely happen is that Ayres would reduce the invoice by $2,500 for their work on the Miller Dam project.
“It’s hard to know what is fair and what is not because in the Camp 8 Dam case, it cost us $160,000 for one project,” Walcisak said. “So does $2,500 back make us whole? No. Can we apply again in two years and get it? No harm, no foul. That’s what they’re offering without even a request from us.”
Knoll said the one unknown to the county is what the program will look like in two years. Zenner said even if the program doesn’t get renewed and it’s cut completely by the state, the county is no worse off than it is now.
Walcisak said there is nothing about either the Camp 8 or Chelsea dams to indicate they are in emanate danger of failing. He said they are in very poor condition, but not to the point that the county needs to talk immediate action. Walcisak said if the dams were to reach that point, the DNR would issue an order for the county to lower the lake to a specific level and maintain that level until the dam is replaced.
Walcisak said based on construction plans and invoices from the late 1960, there is a possibility asbestos was used to reinforce the caulking in the seams of the dam’s drainpipe. He said Ayres has submitted a proposal to conduct an asbestos assessment at a cost of $2,700. Walcisak said he contacted another company in Wausau and received an estimate of $3,000 to do the assessment. He said the cost is refundable under grant funding because the engineers and county will need to know if asbestos is present in making future plans to replace the dam and contractors will need to know what they are bidding on. If asbestos is found to be in the dam, Walcisak said it will have an affect on the cost of the project. The board approved the asbestos assessment proposal from Ayres.
Zenner suggested Ayres do the assessment for free, in addition to offering to refund the county $2,500 because he felt it wasn’t enough compensation for missing the deadline. Other committee members agreed Ayres should have to pay more. County board chairman Jim Metz, who was sitting in on the meeting, said he was attending a convention next month and executives from Ayres would be there. Metz said he would talk to them about getting better compensation for the county.
Moving on to Chelsea Lake Dam, Walcisak said the DNR has also granted a request to extend the directives by two years. He said this will give the county a fresh set of directives from the time it took ownership of the dam in 2018 rather than inheriting directives from the previous owner that were already two years old. Walcisak said by updating the dam’s Emergency Action Plan and making other changes, he expects the county will be able to gain back points it lost when it files the next grant application.
Knoll asked if the county does wait two years to reapply for a grant, what does it need to do to the dam in the meantime.
Walsicak said the bottom three or four stopblocks in the dam are in poor shape and leaking. He said to replace them would require a major drawdown of the lake. Walcisak said his concern with that was drawing down a lake that has a very small basin would probably take an entire summer to refill. He said in talking with the DNR, it was felt it be better to just let the stopblock leak for now. The major concern of the DNR, Walcisak said, was that a drawdown in 2020 to replace the stopblocks and another in 2023 to replace the dam were too close together and would have a detrimental affect on the fish population.
To like and dislike the same things, that is indeed true friendship.