Out with the old dam; in with the new bridge

The new massive, metal bridge rests along the Rum River at Recreation Park in Milaca, waiting to be installed. Right: The old dam at the Rum River awaits its upcoming removal.

Finally, after more than two years of discussion, the project to get a new pedestrian bridge at Rec Park has gotten the go-ahead.

Along with it will come the removal of a dam there, following a discussion that began about a year ago.

The twists and turns for the dual project have included changes in plans, changes in funds to be expended, and changes in where that money will come from.

The state, for example, has proposed increasing its funding for the dam removal about $37,000 to $187,000.

The city, which purchased a bridge last year for $55,000 that was built for another project, had hopes in 2010 of spending about $96,000 for the bridge project but that has increased to about $130,000.

City Council members gave their approval for the project at their June 14 meeting, contingent upon a change order being signed and on the state increasing its contribution by $37,000.

City Manager Greg Lerud said Monday it’s now likely the project will not begin until August after the city’s Rec Fest has been held.

It had been hoped as recently as last month that most of the project could be completed before Rec Fest but higher-than-expected bids for the project led to that delay.

The city will borrow the $130,000 for the bridge project from the city’s liquor fund, thus allowing the project to be done without raising taxes.

Lerud told council members he had checked with the city treasurer and that revenue has been sufficient for the past seven years to cover the additional transfer.

He also told council members that it would mean the annual liquor fund transfer to the general fund could not be increased during that time.

Mayor Pete Pedersen expressed concern at the May meeting, and at last week’s meeting, about the rock riffles being removed from the dam project because of cost.

Lerud told Pedersen at the meeting that the plan calls for using the boulders presently in the park and to incorporate those into a riffle.

Eric Altena, from DNR Fisheries, told Lerud in a conversation last week that the riffles above and below the dam will be as aesthetic as any other riffles in the area.

Altena said the boulder placement that is still in the funded proposal can be done strategically to provide additional habitat for fish and give increased aesthetic appeal.

Lerud said during the meeting that city staff is looking at applying for a grant to install the planned riffles but it probably wouldn’t happen until next year.