Prairie du Chien Common Council adopts proposed sewer rate increase

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By Correne Martin


A proposed sewer rate increase was adopted by the Prairie du Chien Common Council at its May 3 meeting. With wastewater treatment plant improvements needed on the horizon, expenses going up, and the last update being in 2003, the decision was made under advisement from Delta 3 Engineering.

The engineering firm has conducted a lot of analysis the past few years on Prairie du Chien’s prior sewage rates, and they looked at 18 different options of base cost and volume cost increases.

“The city decided not to attack all this in one year, but instead wants to spread the impact out over five years,” said Bart Nies, of Delta 3.

Rising expenses, he noted, are for day-to-day electrical, labor and equipment; debt payment; as well as an equipment replacement fund to which the city is required by the DNR to put $77,000 into per year. Also, the city has been focusing on lowering its phosphorus levels, and there is some cost involved.

As opposed to the cost of a full sewer upgrade of $25 to $50 million, the city has elected to spend an estimated $4.15 million on wastewater treatment plant improvements over a five-year period beginning in 2023.

“The city’s average sewer bill in 2021 was $385, which is below the state average of $400 per year (2019 average),” Nies said. 

The rate increase option chosen by city staff is calculated to put more emphasis (60 percent) on the volume charge, or usage per customer, and charge less for the base cost, or fixed fee (40 percent). Effective March 15, 2023, the rough numbers  will increase from a base charge of $34.50 currently to $44.50 per quarter; and $2.58 per 100-cubic feet of volume to $3.38 for that same quantity.

“This is assuming the city puts $0 in from the replacement fund, $0 in from the budget, and receives no grant dollars,” Nies added. “Honestly, you would apply for grants.” Of course, if any money is contributed from these avenues, the increase may be less.

In 2023, the city is also considering a $1.1 million wastewater treatment project within the watershed to eliminate eroding soils. This would help the city decrease its phosphorus levels. The DNR monitors these levels and expects them to be so low, and this project would give the city credit toward those efforts. 

DDI/PdC Main Street

Driftless Development Inc. and Prairie du Chien Main Street gave an update to the council last Tuesday about what has been keeping them busy. 

DDI Executive Director Carol Roth reported that city businesses brought in $180,000 in sales during the downtown’s Shop Small Saturday promotion for the holidays. She said that equates to a $300,000 impact on that revenue. 

The state’s Main Street Bounceback Grants program resulted in 39 such grants for Crawford County, of which 70 percent were in Prairie du Chien. Roth said those $10,000 individual grants have created a $640,000 impact on business. 

For the Market on Blackhawk pop-up shop in November and December, she added, the vendors generated $35,000 in sales just over those two months. 

She noted she’s also working on a business retention survey and getting the ball rolling on developing a local business incubator. 

Tammie Katzung, downtown manager, said for the new Thursday Night Farmers Market, she has 10 vendors so far planned for the Sports World parking lot market that starts this week. She said many businesses are also staying open later on Thursday nights for this. 

The 350th Expedition of Marquette and Joliet will be celebrated in 2023, and she shared that she’s already in full swing with planning for that summer celebration. 

Consumer confidence  water report

The city water department’s 2021 Consumer Confidence Report came back recently with no violations from the water testing. The report, available in full at (linked to the water department), details what minerals were tested for and how the city fared. 

Water superintendent Larry Gates said lead levels have gone down, thanks to the city’s valid effort to increase replacement of galvanized lines citywide. He said the city received a $52,000 Lead Service Line Replacement grant to help with that. 

“Property owners went through a plumber and we supplied the funding,” he said. “We’re hoping to apply for this every year to help out our homeowners.”

Ballpark complex

The St. Feriole Island Ballpark is fundraising to purchase a new scoreboard, and the city agreed to support the project. According to representative Dan Shickert, this is to replace one field’s 17-year old scoreboard that is weathered and starting to have problems. He said the cost of a new one is $35,000 for just the scoreboard, plus another $40,000 for the related equipment.

Shickert also reported to the council that, with Prairie du Chien hosting the state Legion baseball tournament in 2023, there are already 175 hotel rooms booked in the city for it. 

“We have one of the best venues in the state, and we want to keep it that way,” he stated. 

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