The Village of Ephraim delivered rough cost estimates totaling $4.9 million for upcoming projects to a packed hall Oct. 10. That number is likely to fluctuate based on actual construction costs and coordination of related projects.
Village Board President Mike McCutcheon said the estimate, which he said could grow to $5.5 million, only represents what village board members would like to see irrespective of changes in the tax burden. The village will now enlist the help of Ehlers financial planning firm to better understand payment plans before deciding on what to include in the final project.
“We’re not totally committing to this,” said McCutcheon. “We are getting an estimation of the dollar amount we would need to borrow for the projects, have Ehlers come back and tell us how we can do this or can’t.”
Jeremy Ashauer, project manager with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), said the department will have a hard time incorporating all of the proposed project with the highway resurface due to the amount of time it takes to plan environmental and historical review as well as communication with the public.
Ashauer said the DOT will need their plans completed by August of next year, leaving the village with nine months to complete all designs for the projects and get them cleared by the department.
The $4.9 million price tag includes reconstruction of a portion of the highway, adding a sidewalk between the village beach and the old fire station, burying power lines, streetlight replacement, adding green space in front of the village hall and some stormwater abatement. The village removed a proposed stone wall at the village beach and will seek more information on reconstruction of Moravia Point, including the street’s intersection with the highway, before making a decision.
The DOT is requiring a financial commitment on many of these projects by Nov. 1.
Highway Reconstruction: $2.1 Million
When the DOT comes to Ephraim in 2019, they plan on a simple resurface of the existing highway. Any additions to that project, including curb, gutter and sidewalks, would come at village expense.
“Don’t place an over amount of emphasis on an engineering estimate,” said board member Paul Roppuld. He expects the estimate to increase by an additional 30 to 40 percent even after learning the $2.1 million estimate already includes a 30 percent contingency. Roppuld has been strongly opposed to construction of sidewalks in the village.
Board member Tim Nelson was eager to agree to the reconstruction without seeing the project in its entirety, including its effect on the tax burden.
Burial of Power Lines: $1.886 Million
The village is considering burying power lines between the wetlands on the southern end of the village and German Road. Village board members decided to include the project in projections while waiting on an estimated tax increase, but recognize the project as aesthetic and not essential.
“If this part of the project were to jeopardize everything else that we can do, and I think this represents primarily aesthetics, I’m going to vote no against burying the power lines,” said McCutcheon.
“This is a popular item whether we want to admit it or not,” said Roppuld. “I think out of consideration for those people’s opinions, I would look at this as part of the total package.”
Ephraim resident Jim Peterman said the cost to the individual property owner would be $1,100 for the first 100-feet of line running to the main cable and the property owner would also be responsible for installation of the meter.
The $1.8 million estimate is highly contingent on the amount of blasting that would need to be done to run wires underground, but Peterman hopes the burial could be coordinated with excavation for stormwater sewers and street lighting.
Streetlight Replacement: $600,000
The McMahon engineering firm estimates a cost of $5,000 for each streetlight replaced. The village has 120 streetlights, but board member Cindy Nelson said not all of them need replacing. The cost would also include bringing all village streetlights under village power. Currently, some street lights are powered by private property owners who are then reimbursed by the village. Roppuld was adamant that the lights be replaced, but said he didn’t believe the cost estimate was accurate.
Village Hall Green Space: $6,052.50
Board member Tim Nelson expressed concern over the potential loss of parking to add a sliver of green space.
“If you can show that no parking spaces will be lost, I will be a lot more amenable to this,” said Tim Nelson. “I feel like we’re trying to fix something that ain’t broke.”
Stormwater Abatement: $344,844
Deemed the most important part of the streetscape project by village board members, the first stage of stormwater abatement would focus on areas including and immediately adjacent to the Hwy 42 corridor.
John Cox, member of the stormwater subcommittee, said the stormwater infrastructure is intended to survive between 30 to 50 years.
“As [Steve Parent from Baudhuin Surveying & Engineering] was reviewing Ephraim stormwater situation, most of Ephraim’s infrastructure was already past the 50-year mark and that in itself was a concerning remark,” said Cox.
The scope of the estimate includes Hwy 42 throughout downtown Ephraim, Cherry Street, German Road and some private properties.
Board members hope that project coordination, such as excavation for sidewalks, stormwater and power line burial, reduces the total cost.
The village retained Ehlers to run models for borrowing at various intervals up to $5.5 million. Once the village knows the effect of various debt on the mill rate, board members may eliminate some of these projects.
Between 2015 to 2016, Ephraim had a municipal tax rate of 3.19 percent, the second lowest in the county behind the Village of Egg Harbor. The total tax rate of 11.03 percent is the second lowest of any village or city in the state, still behind Egg Harbor.
In 2019, the village will retire its current debt, of which it is paying about $200,000 annually.