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Menomonie council takes first steps for Project Hope, approves bid to dredge southern portion of Wolske Bay

Menomonie council takes first steps for Project Hope, approves bid to dredge southern portion of Wolske Bay

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The first step in implementing Project Hope has been taken.

The Menomonie City Council voted Monday to allow up to $75,000 in administrative spending to launch the project.

Project Hope is an initiative between the city and Menomonie Police Department to use evidence-based practices in an effort to combat methamphetamine and opioid addiction in the city and surrounding area.

The funds would be used for education and provide a sense of commitment in applying for grants.

“I think this is a positive move for the city of Menomonie and I think once the proof is in the pudding this is going to be adopted by a lot of counties and cities across Wisconsin,” Mayor Randy Knaack said. “I think it’s very important that we set precedence and get this one moving.”

It’s the time of the year to apply for grants through the Department of Justice and human services, Police Chief Eric Atkinson said. Having initial funding can increase the chances of receiving grants by showing there is already an investment into the program, he said.

Grants that allow for education and juvenile deflection and aversion programs are also being applied for. Funding to create an informational website about the program has already been provided by the Dunn County Partnership for Youth. Atkinson said the department is looking at both private and public funding and he feels confident they will receive some type of financial aid. If other funding is secured, it likely won’t cost the city $75,000 to launch the program.

“This will at least get us in the door at Phase 1 and allows us to start looking forward to the next three, four years,” Atkinson said.

Dredging bid approvedThe council approved a bid from A-1 Excavating in Bloomer to dredge the southern bay of Wolske Bay in Lake Menomin.

The approval passed by a 6-3 vote and is contingent on bonds, insurance and DNR permit being secured.

The project is to remove about 13,000 cubic yards of sediment with the approved bid for $519,535. A-1 Excavating recommended mechanical dredging instead of hydraulic dredging, Public Works Director Randy Eide said.

Council member Jeff Luther questioned how the process of mechanical dredging would work in trying to remove the “muck” from the bay. By scooping it out with a excavator bucket, most of it will run out and back into the lake, he said.

A-1 Excavating has ensured the city it has the timing and expertise to make sure the sediment gets onto the barge and back to shore before being trucked to the landfill, Eide said.

“We’ve asked them the tough questions,” he said. “They seem to have done this before and they can produce it and bring the tonnage up.”

It’s the third dredging project in the last five years after projects were approved to dredge the bay near Jarrett Creek and Point Comfort Park in 2018 and the northern portion of Wolske Bay in 2016. The project in 2018 removed most sand coming out of the creek, City Engineer Charlie Jones said. He expects this project to remove significant amounts of phosphorus similar to the dredging of the northern portion of the Wolske Bay.

“I do believe for a period of years in the bays themselves the blue-green algae isn’t probably a major issue,” Jones said.

Lee Schwebs, along with Chad Schlough and Ryland Erdman, voted against the bid. Schwebs questioned the value of the northern bay dredging. The funds are to be used for the improvement of water quality but he said he’s not sure it’s the best way to spend the $600,000 without carefully considering alternatives.

“I wonder if we just abandoned looking at all other alternatives just to say we’re going to dredge and improve the depth that somebody can get their boat into the south bay,” Schwebs said.

Knaack said the northern bay isn’t producing blue-green algae but the southern bay still is. The northern bay now has fish and other wildlife habitat and people are using it, he said.

“I’m really solid it about this, folks. If I didn’t believe it was important I certainly wouldn’t be moving down this road,” Knaack said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for April 6. The city will continue to discuss options for abiding by open meeting laws while practicing social distancing during current public health concerns.

The Wisconsin State Department of Justice Office of Open Government sent an advisory Monday that government bodies can meet open meeting obligations by conducting meeting by telephone conference calls provided that the public is able to monitor the meetings.

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