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Lyons 2010 - Up one camp, one plant, down one depot



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December 29, 2010 | 09:08 AM
An Illinois man found meaning on Cranberry Road.

A new sewage treatment plant is going up in the Lyons Sanitary District, as are the quarterly sewer rates.

A landmark came down in Springfield.

And a seven-year-old rainwater drainage dispute between the Bourdo familiy and the town of Lyons won't be resolved until the New Year.

Camp completed, dream continued

On Sunday, Oct. 3, about 150 of Eric Lentz's friends and family gathered at Rustic Falls Camp on Cranberry Road, town of Lyons, for the dedication of the campsite and the 150-year-old cobblestone house transformed into a lodge big enough to sleep eight campers and two counselors.

Owner of a pool maintenance company, Lentz, of Skokie, Ill., has a degree in special education. His wife, Deanna Hallagan, is a social worker. They had long planned to open a camp to provide outdoor experiences for at-risk youth, cancer survivors and physically and mentally challenged children and adults.

Their plan went into overdrive two years ago when Lentz learned that he had colon cancer which had spread to his liver.

Lentz started working on the grounds and the farmhouse in 2009, with plans to complete work on the camp by June. A relapse forced Lentz to delay completing his work until October.

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After undergoing outpatient treatments, Lentz often drove from Illinois to Cranberry Road and jumped into his work, moving railroad ties, hefting small boulders, cutting trees and clearing brush.

But he didn't do that alone. Friends and family helped nail boards, carry boulders and dig postholes.

Rustic Falls' centerpiece is the 150-year-old stone farm house that was gutted and completely renovated into a camping lodge.

The main room has a fireplace and a spiral staircase that leads up to a sleeping room for eight campers. In the main room are two futons for counselors.

"It was a labor of love," said Marcos Fernandez, one of Lentz's longtime friends. "It was Eric's vision and we helped."

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Rustic Falls is on five acres that straddle the north and south sides of Cranberry Road, about two miles east of Lake Geneva.

Surrounding the camp is an 83-acre nature conservancy managed by the Seno Woodland Education Center. Seno and Lentz have a mutual use agreement.

Lentz said plans call for Illinois and Wisconsin social services organizations to use the lodge and surrounding woodlands.

New treatment plant

The Lyons Sanitary District officially broke ground for a new sewage treatment plant on July 1.

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Plans call for the plant to be online by July 2011, treating sewage from both the Lyons Sanitary District, and the Country Estates Sanitary District. Both districts are within, but do not serve the entire town of Lyons.

The old Lyons Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant was built to last for 20 years, when it was opened 30 years ago. The old plant could handle 100,000 gallons daily.

When the plant is over capacity, it has overflows. And that had the state Department of Natural Resources concerned.

The DNR pretty much ordered the district to build a new treatment plant.

The old plant's main building will be torn down and its old treatment system removed.

Miron Construction of Neenah is the main contractor.

The new plant will have three buildings, an administration building, a process building and a building to serve as garage, workshop and for storage. The center of the new plant will be the 82-foot in diameter oxidation and digester basin.

The new plant's capacity will be 207,000 gallons per day.

The facility is expected to provide treatment for both the Lyons Sanitary and Country Estates districts through the year 2026.

For two small districts, such as Lyons and Country Estates, even a modest-sized plant like this one is costly.

Originally, the project's estimated cost was $4.8 million. Cost-cutting by both districts brought that down to an estimated $4.069 million.

The Lyons district was able to secure a 20-year, $2.7 million loan at 2.2 percent interest, through the DNR Clean Water Fund.

Country Estates securied a $1.45 million Wisconsin Rural Water Construction loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It also received a $3.1million grant for updating sewer pipes and manholes.

To pay off the loans, sewer rates, which were once $111 per quarter, have jumped to $198. They will jump again to $255 a quarter in 2011.

District officials have said that those rates won't come down until the plant is paid off.

Fall of a landmark

The end of an era officially was marked by the June demolition of the Lyons Historic Depot.

The depot is believed to have been built around 1855. According to the Lyons Historical Society, the building originally was located near the Milwaukee Road in what is now northern Lyons.

The building was moved to Highway 120 in nearby Springfield many years ago.

Members of the Baker family, who owned the depot, tried to save the old building. They considered turning it into an ice cream shop or a daycare.

They contacted organizations, including Old World Wisconsin, and television shows such as "This Old House." But all to no avail.

Their decision to raze the building was, in a way, made by the building itself.

Marilyn Liskowski, a member of the Baker family, said the building "literally just popped open" and started to fall over.

Liskowski said there were some mixed feelings.

She said they were glad to bring the building down because they didn't have the resources to fix it up. "But it's sad to see it go because it is part of history," she said.

The old depot was attractive, and a nuisance. Tourists would come and take pictures of the building. Others would break in and steal things.

Local historian Linda Skiles said she fears a part of the town's character was lost as the building came down.

. "The buildings; the memories I feel is what makes us the community that we are," she said.

Runoff remedy delayed

Some day, the Lyons Town Board will be able to close the book on its rainwater runoff dispute with the Bourdo family.

But not in 2010.

As late as December, the Lyons Town Board met in closed session with lawyers trying to find a resolution with neighboring property owners so it can finally install a drainage ditch to settle the Bourdo issue.

The property owners to the west of the Bourdo property must grant easements for the work to proceed.

The dispute started more than seven years ago when, in 2003, Phillip and Kimberly Bourdo claimed that drainage problems on South Road and the Hegeman and Lyons Hillside subdivisions caused their house to flood in March that year.

They claimed that the flood cut their property value by $50,000.

In reply, the town claimed the couple neglected their own land, never mitigated any of the alleged damages, and the land is on a floodplain that is beyond town control.

The town tried to have the case thrown out in 2004 for lack of facts supporting the Bourdos' claim. But the motion to dismiss failed.

Instead, Walworth County Judge James Carlson said facts in the case pointed to an inadequate culvert with the road acting as a dam.

However, Carlson also said the experts didn't believe it resulted in an unreasonable collection of water.

The judge said he believed suing for damages wasn't appropriate, but the town wasn't immune from blame, either.

The two sides entered negotiations in April 2007, and the town and the Bourdos agreed to the basics of a settlement.

The agreement requires the town to build a drainage system with the Bourdos contributing to the project.

The town would have to pay for the balance of the project and also compensate other property owners for easements.

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