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Ephraim Prioritizes Stormwater, Street Lights, Sidewalks

The Ephraim Village Board will prioritize stormwater abatement, replacing street lights and providing sidewalks as it moves toward final plans before the highway resurfacing. The village must make a financial commitment to the Department of Transportation (DOT) by Nov. 1 for these projects.

“Understand that this is just the first step and what I hope to get out of this is a direction on where we stand after three years,” said board president Mike McCutcheon at the village’s Aug. 23 meeting. “Then we will look at the cost of each one of these things and we will decide on the overall budget.”

McCutcheon asked each individual board member to prioritize their list of six items the village has considered to be included in the plan: stormwater, sidewalks, green space at the village hall, street lighting, the south intersection of Moravia Street and Hwy. 42, and burying power lines.

Using a point system to rank priorities, stormwater abatement was unanimously considered most important in the village. Street lighting and sidewalks were then considered to be the next priority. While generally considering the remaining projects to be a good idea, village hall green space, the Moravia Street intersection and burial of the power lines were significantly farther down on the priority list.

As the village engages in each department outlining a 20-year capital plan, board member Paul Roppuld expressed concern that these costs were going to add up quickly.

“Imagine what’s going to happen when added to this comes our wastewater system going out 20 years,” said Roppuld during discussion of sidewalks, which he has been consistently opposed to. “Imagine what happens when the maintenance division with its trucks and employees gets added to this. I find it in my mind impossible to take each of these things out and analyze them individually.”

Exorbitant cost led to the village backing away from burial of power lines, which was estimated at $1.2 million.

Board member Tim Nelson suggested limiting the proposed sidewalk to the one side of the highway between the public beach and the historic fire station, where it would then cross over to join the walking path along the water.

“The village has the opportunity to construct a safe walkway, a sidewalk along the off-water side of the highway where businesses are located,” said Nelson. “Sidewalk and curb along one side of the highway over a half-mile… does not in any way, shape or form make Ephraim resemble Sister Bay or any other developed municipality in Florida or elsewhere.”

Board member Cindy Nelson wants to see the sidewalk extend from the wetlands on the south end of the village to Anderson Dock at the north end, but would gladly support Tim Nelson’s suggestion.

Tim Nelson also expressed concern about utility easements for stormwater drains on private property. Utility easements allow the village to construct and maintain these drains on private property, without the property owner giving away the land. Many of the culverts and stormwater drains are on private property, either constructed by the private landowner or agreed upon with a handshake, void of any official documentation.

“If the property owner at German Road is not interested in a utility easement, we need to find another place to cross the highway with stormwater,” said Tim Nelson, citing one of the drains that the village does not have documentation of ownership or easement.

That undesirable public-private partnership also came up during discussion of street lights, some of which are powered by private homeowners who are then reimbursed for part of their electrical bill.

“That’s another part of this where perhaps it would make more sense if the village could have it all under Ephraim power rather than reimbursing these folks,” said Cindy Nelson.

No action was taken on the priority list and the discussion was nonbinding. The village will now pursue cost estimates for each of the projects and begin a budget process, pairing those costs with their priorities.

“That’s where the horse trading comes in but we’ll know where the priorities lie,” said McCutcheon.

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