A crowd filled Dayton Town Hall Saturday, Oct. 13, to voice their opinions about forming a lake district to save the Little Hope Mill Pond.
In late August. the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources inspected the dam, found it to be hazardous and ordered a drawdown of the mill pond.
The drawdown was completed by Oct. 15.
Now, instead of overlooking a small lake, the more than 30 residents around Little Hope Mill Pond have mucky back yards between them and the Crystal River.
Bruce Golding, a town supervisor whose family has lived near the dam for decades, said the muck would never go away due to springs that had been feeding the mill pond.
Dayton Town Chairman Chris Klein, who also lives on the mill pond, explained the costs and options regarding the dam.
“The DNR won’t allow the dam to be repaired,” Klein said. “The only option is that it must be replaced or removed.”
Klein said removing the dam would cost about $225,000, while replacing it would cost about $420,000.
He said state grants may be available to cover up to half the cost of replacing the dam, which would bring the cost difference between the two options much closer.
The county has owned the dam since the 1950s and Klein said he wants the county to take responsibility for replacing it.
“It’s my position that if the county would replace the dam and bring it up to current standards, then the lake district could take responsibility of it in the future,” Klein said.
Klein said a lake district would give Dayton more leverage in encouraging the board to support rebuilding the dam.
“Twenty-five out of 32 county board members have to support the bonding,” Klein said. “There are four or five supervisors who have opposed every bonding proposal.”
Klein said having a lake district would also give area residents a seat at the table with the DNR and the county during discussions of the dam’s future.
Many of those who supported forming a lake district agreed with Klein that it would give them more say regarding the dam and the mill pond.
“I’m in favor of a lake district so that I can have a say in what’s going on,” said Steve Lawrence. “I have seen in other areas, like Northland, where the DNR just yanked out the dam.”
Others spoke against a lake district because they viewed it as another layer of government and additional property taxes.
Jim Machimer, who lives on Solitude Lake, also owns property in Oconto County, where the DNR ordered a drawdown of a mill pond.
“The township and the county paid for it,” Machimer said, suggesting that the town of Dayton and Waupaca County apply for grants and pay for replacing the dam.
Several of those living on the mill pond said they were concerned about how removing the dam would affect their property values.
“I can see the Red Mill from my back yard. I can see the dam from my back yard, said Chuck Krueger. “If that dam goes out, my property values will go down the river with it.”
Ron Holtebeck, who also lives on the mill pond, said he opposed the formation of a lake district because the information the board has given residents is unclear and conflicts with information coming from the DNR.
He also thinks the potential costs to taxpayers in the district could outweigh the consequences of the dam not being replaced.
“The worst we can end up with is a stream, like the Crystal River,” Holtebeck said.
If the town board establishes a lake district, then the district will have the authority, after a vote of its members at an annual meeting, to levy taxes on property within its boundaries.
The district’s proposed boundaries go as far west as Parfreyville United Methodist Church, which is along the Crystal River.
The district also includes the subdivisions on Waletta Drive in the northwest corner and Old Mill Run in the northeast corner, as well as the homes on Lake Solitude and the subdivision off East Road.
he district also includes the Chain O’ Lakes Conservation Club and the abandoned landfill.
Approximately 180 parcels are included in the proposed lake district.
Klein said that a lake district can include not only those who have property directly on the water, but those who benefit from the lake.
“We don’t have to find that every single property benefits or that every single property benefits equally,” Klein said.
He compared paying lake district taxes to paying school taxes.
Every property owner in a school district pays school taxes, regardless of whether or not they have children, because the community at large benefits from public schools.
Dave Poeschl, Waupaca school superintendent, lives in the subdivision north of the Red Mill.
He took issue with Klein’s analogy, comparing the benefits of a lake district to those of the public school system.
He said the entire community benefits from an educated work force but “my property does not benefit from the mill pond.”
“I’m in favor of the lake district but not as it’s drawn up now. My neighbor benefits as much as I do but is not included in the district,” Poeschl said. “Why not form a larger district rather than pitting neighbor against neighbor? Why not include the entire town of Dayton?”
Klein said he doubted if the people living on Stratton Lake would want to be part of the Little Hope Mill Pond Lake District.
Those living on Stratton Lake have their own voluntary association to oversee water quality issues, while those living on the Chain O’ Lakes are already part of a larger district that includes residents in the town of Farmington.
Klein asked those present at Saturday’s public hearing to indicate if they wanted to be excluded from the proposed district.
More than 20 residents said they wanted out of the district.
Although there was no vote at the hearing, Dayton Town Clerk Judy Suhs kept a running count of those who spoke either in favor of or against the Little Hope Mill Pond Lake District.
Nineteen people supported the district and 18 opposed it.