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Village water rates to rise; Event requirements change

Village of Somerset residents may soon see an increase in charges on their water bills.

According to Village Trustee and Public Works Committee member Bartt Palmer, the Public Service Commission is requesting the village raise its water rates at least 5 percent, or up to 6.5 percent. The PSC is recommending an increase of 5.5 percent.

According to Palmer, if the village doesn’t request through the PSC to raise its water rates, the PSC will force it to do so.

Public Works Supervisor Bob Gunther said the amount of the rate of return must go up for the water utility to continue running efficiently.

“We have been losing money,” Gunther said. “If there is no rate increase, then the money (to operate the water utility) comes out of the general fund and big water users aren’t paying their fair share.”

The increase of 5.5 percent would cost the average 15,000 gallon water user $20-$24 more per quarter.

The board voted to recommend an increase of 5.5 percent to the PSC. The issue will go before a public hearing to be announced at a later date.

In other water-related news, Gunther reminded residents not living in apartment buildings to continue to run a faucet at at pencil-width stream until at least April 15. Warmer weather pushes the frost further into the ground, continuing to cause problems.

Gunther said he has had close to 20 complaints of frozen water lines, including at the post office. He said in many cases, the people had not followed directions and not kept a faucet running in their homes.

Gunther said if people shut off the faucets and lines freeze, they will be referred to a contractor at their own cost. He said if the village had to pay to thaw all the lines of the people that didn’t follow directions, “we would go bankrupt.”

CUPs for events

The board voted to amend the requirements for the interim conditional use permit for events for Matt Mithun of Somerstar Entertainment.

  • Board members discussed requiring all people of drinking age to wear a wristband or some other visible marking after having their IDs checked at events. It was agreed that conditional use permits for annual events are looked at yearly, so some flexibility could be given for more family-friendly events where drinking is not an issue.
  • The board also liked the idea of requiring a map detailing all points of sale of alcohol having to be submitted to Police Chief Doug Briggs five days before an event. This would give the chief time to request modifications to the points of alcohol sale locations if he deemed it necessary for public safety.

Trustee Greg Sayers said, for example, nothing currently binds Mithun of the Somerset Amphitheater to follow the chief’s recommendations, but “there is a comfortable working relationship” there and no one foresees any problems.

Briggs said there are other ways to control points of alcohol sales and incidents that may happen at events, through village ordinances.

“I’ve got more than one tooth in my mouth luckily, and it’s not just a conditional use permit,” Briggs said.

  • All public safety matters must now go through local law enforcement, EMS and fire channels. According to Briggs, that evolved from Summerset Fest bringing in its own security personnel, who were not familiar with the local laws and procedures.

“This gives us the lead in public safety so we don’t have to take a backseat to someone who doesn’t know what’s going on,” Sayers said.

  • The starting deposit for large-scale events was raised from $8,000 to $10,000 and must be paid 15 days before an event. Any refunds will be given by Dec. 31 of that year.
  • Somerset police officers’ time in court due to felony infractions at events will be billed to Mithun, who in turn may bill the promoter of the event, the agent in “causing the infraction.”
  • The board voted to amend the Class B Liquor license premise/beer garden permit for Float Rite Park, releasing Somerset Amphitheater from the license.
  • The board voted to amend the Reserved Class B liquor license premise for Somerstar Entertainment.

TAP grant

The village’s pre-scoping application was approved and it was invited to apply for a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Projects that met the criteria for the Safe Routes to School Program, transportation enhancements or the Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Program are eligible.

The grant would pay 80 percent of the cost of a trail along Highway 35 connecting the River Hills area across the Main Street bridge to Dairy Queen.

Patrick Beilfuss of Cedar Corporation said the minimum cost of project approved for the grant must be $300,000, and the village would have to pay 20 percent of that. Village President Jeff Johnson said funds are set aside for that purpose.

“How do we make ourselves more attractive (to receive the grant)?” Johnson asked.

Beilfuss said the village is already attractive due to its proven track record, planning documents, money set aside and the state’s wanting to connect the trails all the way to New Richmond.

The deadline to apply is May 28. The grant would reimburse the village as the village incurs costs. The grant is available every four years, Beilfuss said, so the village must act this year if it wants it.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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