Multiple public works project on the horizon for Village of Arena

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

Arena Village Hall

Following the results of a water study of the village of Arena’s water systems, the village is preparing to build a secondary well system which is set to cost the village at least $2.1 million over the next three years. 

The village board voted on the matter at its Feb. 2 meeting, after discussing the water study created by MSA, an engineering firm, to assess the current and future capabilities of the village’s water systems, and to provide recommendation and guidance to the village on priority of needs for the systems. 

The study found that the most urgent need for the village’s system is to build a secondary well supply, which will serve to strengthen the existing system, according to the study. 

The need for a second well has been identified multiple times by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in sanitary studies, most recently in a 2020 survey in which the department strongly suggested adding a second well to ensure a reliable system and ensure ample water supply for all municipal water users. 

Kathy Jennings, an engineer at MSA, said the first steps towards building the new well include a site investigation and building a test well at the determined site, which she advised the village do immediately. The investigation and test well have an estimated $100,000 price tag. 

Other repairs and projects for the new well recommended for this year include a leak detection study which is set to cost approximately $10,000 and installing replacement platforms on the 150,000 gallon water storage tank on the existing well, which would cost approximately $20,000. 

MSA recommended conducting a leak detection study as reports of the village’s water system have shown a 15% water loss over the past three years. The magnetic flow meter, the meter used to measure the volume of water flowing through pipes, on the existing well read 8% higher than the actual volume of water. 

 The study estimates that by 2022, the village will be set for final construction of the secondary well system, costing $200,000 just for well construction. The wellhouse for the secondary well would be constructed in 2023. 

Secondary wellhouse construction would cost approximately $1.3 million. 

Other improvements recommended for 2023 include improvements to the existing wellhouse, additions to the existing chemical room, general water system improvements, and adding an overcoat to the existing storage tank to prolong its life. These various improvement project would cost an estimated total of $470,000. 

According to the study, the village filed an intent to apply for a Safe Drinking Water Loan from the DNR in October 2020 for the construction of a secondary well. To pursue funding for the 2022 fiscal year, the village will need to submit an application by June 30 this year. 

Based on current loan conditions, the village would be eligible for a loan of 30% of project costs from the DNR. The study says the village is also eligible for a United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development funding, which could provide a grant covering up to 45% of the secondary well construction. 

The study also recommends the village revisit it’s current Tax Incremental District (TID) project list, and consider using Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) for the project. 

TIF is a financing model used by municipalities and developers in an effort to redevelop an area and increase property and sales tax revenue. 

Public Works Projects

The board also voted to construct a new lift station, a pumping station that transports wastewater from an area of low elevation to an area with high elevation, to replace the current, under-performing station on South Street. 

According to an evaluation done by MSA on the current South Street lift station, the current pump is not up to code requirements and is under performing. The current station receives flow from the South Street basin, which services nearly 200 residential homes, the elementary school, a few local businesses and Arena Cheese. 

Arena cheese is considered a “significant discharger” by the Dane-Iowa Wastewater commission, because it pumps over 10,000 gallons of wastewater per day. 

The evaluation provided the board with three options to upgrade the lift station, and the village voted to construct a new lift station on Pine Street, and abandon or demolish the existing South Street lift station. 

This will require the installation of approximately 1,700 feet of new sewer to be installed, for the new lift station to service the South Street Basin. 

According to the evaluation, the total cost for the new lift station would be $284,000. The annual costs to operate and maintain the station is estimated around $3,000, but is not expected to affect existing sewer utility customers. 

Other options provided to the village in the evaluation include rehabilitating the South Street station, which according to the study, is not recommended because of the station’s current under-performance. 

The third option was to construct a new lift station on South Street,  which the evaluation claimed would need a site investigation and further study on the feasibility of the option. 

The study recommended the village pursue loan options from the DNR to fund the project. 

ACES Development 

At it’s Feb. 2 meeting, the village also entered into a TID agreement with developers for the on-going project at the former Arena Elementary School, at 314 Willow Street. 

The board voted to approve an 80% payback TID agreement with the contingency the developers secure Community Development Investment grants from the state to offset some development costs for the project. 

Rick Kerska, a developer for the project said the group is expected to submit an application for the grant by April. 

According to the agreement, the current base value of the property is $65,000, and the completed project by the developers is anticipated to bring an additional $850,000 in value to the property. 

The agreement details the project is expected to start in 2023, and the village will then pay annually to the developer 80% of the tax increment that is received by the village from taxes levied from the previous year for the property. 80% of the tax increment for the property is about $13,000 annually. 

The annual payments will continue until 2031, or until the total payments reach $200,000. 

The development is set to have offices for the Arena Area Historians, practice space for a local gymnastics group, provide a location for the local food pantry and create additional apartment housing. 

The board voted unanimously, with Trustee Paul Pustina absent, to approve the agreement, however Trustee Jessica Voight hesitated prior to voting. 

“I just don’t feel like I have enough information to vote on this,” said

Despite her voiced hesitancy, Voight still voted “yes” for the motion. 

Other actions

Elizabeth Street will now be named Pine Road following the board voting to officially change the street name at the Feb. 2 meeting.

According to the village clerk, local residents refer to the street as Pine Road, and the street sign identifies the street as Pine Road, not Elizabeth Street. 

Public Works Superintendent Mike Schmidt echoed similar feelings, “It’s not on any maps as that,” said Schmidt. 

The board also voted to change ATV/UTV usage hours from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. to 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on all approved routes.