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City receives additional federal funding for stormwater improvement project

The city of La Crosse received additional federal grant money to help fund its storm water system and flood improvements project, officials told the Board of Public Works Monday.

The costs of the project to improve the city’s flooding infrastructure have gone up more than $1 million than originally planned and budgeted, partly due to the pandemic’s impact on construction material costs, as well as needing to increase the size of pumps.

Lenz

The grant, offered by the Economic Development Administration, will cover 80% of the additional costs, lending $853,920 of federal dollars to the project. Locally, the city will then only need to take on 20% of the cost, or $213,480.

“The original plan, because we didn’t know if we’d get the grant or not, was to budget for 100% of the additional funds on utility money,” said utility manager Bernie Lenz.

“So we’ll have some savings in the 2021 budget for only needing to use 20%.”

“That remaining money will go back in cash balance and we can get additional stormwater projects done, which is good news,” Lenz told the board.

This new grant is on top of existing federal assistance for the project. Previously, the EDA had approved $3,677,920 for the improvements.

Specifically this new project includes improvements to three of the city’s stormwater lift stations, mechanisms and infrastructure that help collect and pump out excess rain water to prevent flooding.

The city’s Rose Street lift station will get a third pump and control system, while the Taylor Street station will be reconstructed and expanded, and the Monitor Street station will be demolished and rebuilt. A “booster station” on Lang Drive will also be built.

The increased costs and the additional process with the new grant are expected to increase construction times a bit, according to documents, with a start date likely to be pushed back an additional eight months.

The entire project is still expected to take just over two years, as originally estimated.

WATCH NOW: Photos and video -- Rotary Lights: 2020 edition

Silvia Reich, 8, spends time in the igloo she and her brother, Eli, 10, built in the backyard of their home in the town of Shelby, by making a pile of snow and hallowing it out. “It’s always warmer in here than outside,” said Reich.


Silvia Reich, 8, and her brother Eli, 10, head into their backyard igloo at their home in the Town of Shelby. The siblings built the igloo in January and have been playing in it ever since.


AP
Evers proposes $2.4 billion in Wisconsin building projects (copy)

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday proposed spending $2.4 billion on Wisconsin building projects over the next two years, with nearly a half of that going toward projects across the University of Wisconsin System.

Projects include $163 million for a new state office building in Milwaukee, relocation of the state historical society museum to a new location near the Capitol and a new juvenile prison in Milwaukee County.

The state building commission is slated to vote on Evers’ proposals next month, which would then send the plan to the Legislature’s budget committee. The Republican-controlled Legislature will ultimately decide what to fund in the budget it passes and sends to Evers later this year.

Of the nearly $2.4 billion proposed for projects across 31 counties, $1 billion will be for the UW System. That mirrors his capital budget proposal from two years ago, when roughly $1 billion of the $2.5 billion was for projects on UW campuses. The Legislature ultimately approved $1.9 billion in building projects.

Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget committee were slow to embrace Evers’ plans, without going into specifics. Sen. Howard Marklein called it a “wish list” with some necessary projects and others that he said “require careful consideration.” Rep. Mark Born said investments will be made in building projects but “it won’t be at the levels the governor has proposed.”

The vast majority of the projects would be paid for through long-term borrowing, an attractive option given current low interest rates.

Projects include:

  • $163 million state office building and parking garage in Milwaukee, replacing the existing office building there at a new location and consolidating offices.
  • $150 million to demolish an engineering facility at UW-Madison and build the first phase of a two-part replacement facility to house the College of Engineering.
  • $116 million for UW-River Falls to demolish a vacated academic building and replace it with a new science and technology facility to be home for the biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology departments.
  • $96 million for UW-Green Bay to demolish the Cofrin Library and build a replacement multi-use academic, technology center.
  • $46 million juvenile prison in Milwaukee County to house 32 young offenders as part of a plan to close the Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake juvenile prisons north of Wausau.
  • $40 million to help pay for plans to relocate the Milwaukee Public Museum and combine it with the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum near the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. The total project, which includes both public and private funds, is expected to be complete in 2026 and cost $240 million. The Milwaukee Public Museum, a natural history museum, has operated at its current location in downtown Milwaukee since 1963.

“A new facility provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the community to re-envision the Museum and its exhibits,” the governor’s budget proposal said.

  • $36 million for upgrades at a variety of state parks, including replacing the visitors station public entrance at Potawatomi State Park and restoring the historic boat house at Rock Island State Park.
  • $4 million to begin preliminary design work for redevelopment of a block near the Capitol in Madison for a new state office building and home for the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum.

The project would involve tearing down the existing 50-year-old state office building on the site. The office currently only houses the Department of Workforce Development after the Department of Children and Families recently moved to a more modern state office building in Madison.

In his budget, Evers said the four-story building known as GEF1 has outlived its life expectancy with critical mechanical systems including plumbing and electrical starting to fail and in need of replacement. The current building also does not have a fire sprinkler system.

The proposed redevelopment project would provide a new home for the historical society museum, a popular stop for school field trips that is currently located where State Street dead ends into the Capitol. The Legislature previously approved $100 million for a new museum at the current location, but Evers is calling for relocating it along with the newly proposed office building a few blocks away.

Evers’ proposal would pay for beginning planning for such a project, but funding to actually construct it would have to come later. A new museum to replace the current one has been discussed for decades.


Crime-and-courts
alert top story
La Crosse man accused of assault after being asked to wear mask

Danny Link

A 40-year-old La Crosse man was charged Monday in La Crosse County Circuit Court after he allegedly lashed out at a person who requested that he wear a mask.

Danny L. Link was charged with felony aggravated assault of a disabled person and misdemeanor charges of resisting an officer, disorderly conduct and bail jumping.

According to the criminal complaint, La Crosse police were called Feb. 20 to Walgreen’s on West Avenue for a report of an assault. An elderly man who uses a walker told police he was standing in the checkout aisle when he noticed the person in back of him, later identified as Link, wasn’t wearing a face covering. The man said he told Link that people who don’t wear masks are why the COVID-19 pandemic persists. He said Link remained silent during the encounter.

The man told police he completed his purchase and exited the store, when Link approached him, punched him in the back of his head and said “I’m going to beat up your sister.” The man said he was perplexed by the comment because he had never seen Link before.

The complaint says police obtained surveillance video and recognized Link from previous contacts. The footage reportedly shows Link throwing a “haymaker” punch that caused the man’s head to jerk backward and dislodged a pair of prescription glasses.

Police found Link walking a short time later on Ferry Street, where he was yelling loudly about the incident. The complaint says Link accelerated his walking pace after police ordered him to halt. Police were able to catch up with Link, place him in handcuffs and transport him to the La Crosse County Jail.

La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Todd Bjerke noted that Link has 15 open cases and ordered him held on a $2,500 cash bond.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks (copy)

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