Council Moves Forward on Tiedeman Pond Pumping Station Upgrade

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Common Council will vote on a budget amendment to add $575,000 to the 2020 budget under capital borrowing to replace the pumping station at Tiedeman Pond to handle greater capacity, at its June 16 meeting. The new pumping station would have the capacity to move enough water at a fast enough rate to mitigate the flooding that occurred in August 2018.

Late 2019 the council approved an agreement with MSA Professional Services for the final design of improvements at Graber and Tiedeman ponds. The funding source for this design work was a State Trust Fund Loan (STFL) that was approved at the end of 2019. The projects are not eligible for FEMA reimbursement as they are considered improvements rather than the repairs.

Finance director Bill Burns presented three possible funding options including appropriating funds from general capital borrowing in the 2020 or 2021 budget, the city issues another state trust fund loan or use funds from the storm water utility referendum.

Alder Mark Sullivan scrapped the idea of using storm water utility referendum funds because the language approved by voters specifically designated using the funds for maintenance whereas this project is considered an upgrade. 

“This is not maintenance of something, it is an expansion, it is an improvement which the utility was clearly not designed to do, it was to maintain our existing facilities,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said it makes most sense to fund it through capital borrowing but the decision was whether to include in the 2020 or 2021 budget.

“If we do this we are raising the capital budget by $600,000,” Sullivan said. “If we decide not to do that then this has to fit in with all the other projects.”

Council president Dan Ramsey said including it in the 2021 budget will allow the city officials to have a vigorous debate on the importance of the project versus others. 

“It allows us to have a whole picture rather than a piecemeal add-on where you don’t necessarily see the whole impact of what you are doing,” Ramsey said. 

Alder Kathy Olson said she feels the project is a high priority because it would prevent people from having their basements flooded again.

“I know for a fact there are a lot of people who voted for the storm water utility because they thought this issue would be addressed as a part of that, whether it fits in or not this is a high priority for a lot of people,” Olson said.

Public works director Shawn Stauske said work could begin in the fall if funding was available. 

Sullivan asked if the cost covers any portion of the upgrade needed at the Graber Pond pumping station. Stauske says it does not. 

Burns said if included in the 2020 budget he would need direction from the council that night to  be prepared for the city bond rating scheduled later in the month.

Ramsey asked Stauske what he saw as the highest priority. Stauske said it was hard to compare all the city’s needs.

“Graber Pond has a higher risk of property damage from flooding at National Electrostatics than Tiedeman Pond does for flooding nearby homes,” Stauske said. “But I understand too that residents around Tiedeman Pond are rightfully nervous that if a really significant flood comes by they may be in trouble.”

Mayor Gurdip Brar said he would like to see the pumping stations addressed sooner rather than later.

“The floods were almost 21 months ago and as a city we have to be responsible,” Brar said. “If we had the floods again and we didn’t do anything, just sat on our hands, that doesn’t say a whole lot about the city.”

Sullivan pointed out once more that the proposal was an upgrade rather than a repair. 

“The pond pumps work fine, what we are talking about is a major expansion of capability, which is not a repair,” Sullivan said. “All this is an enormous amount of money that has not been planned for.”

Burns noted the Tiedeman Pond upgrade would increase the tax bill of the average home by about $10.

Alder Robert Burke said he feels the project is still urgent despite other emergencies that have arisen since the August 2018 flooding. 

“In 2018 that was our emergency, we dropped everything else that was our major emergency, granted now we have new emergencies, but we can’t just ignore what we needed to do for the earlier emergencies,” Burke said. “There are many people around Stricker and Tiedeman Pond who are expecting us to be able to ward off a future flooding event.”

The council unanimously approved a motion to vote on a budget amendment at its next meeting to add the project to the 2020 budget under capital borrowing.

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