Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Waiting for the flood
Zenda resident fears her drainage concerns will go unanswered

by Steve Targo

October 11, 2012

LINN — Almost 60 years ago, several local people and businesses helped a widow and her four children by building a house for them next to the Town Hall.

On Friday afternoon, one of those children, 70-year-old Pearl Heinrich, sat in that house, which almost 20 years ago was moved to a spot on Pleasant Street.

“It’s everybody’s house,” Heinrich said, “not just mine.”

She seemed proud to discuss its history and the enhancements she has made to it over the years, including an addition which cost more than $20,000.

But Heinrich’s is one of a few properties affected by a storm water problem that became evident in the late 2000s. Rainfalls cause floods in the area, and it has damaged trees and Heinrich’s shed.

Now, whomever owns this property has to disclose the flooding issue to potential buyers. Heinrich said this means her property isn’t worth as much anymore.

“This place is not worth millions,” Heinrich said inside a dining room built by some of her family members, “but it is to me.”

And she said she doesn’t believe town officials want to help fix the water problem. She said she believes it was caused by the town when it rebuilt Zenda Road in the 1990s.

On the phone Monday, Linn Town Chairman Jim Weiss said despite what occurred at a Sept. 10 board meeting, the issue can be revisited at any time. He said conversations about the water problems in that area will continue. (See sidebar for more).

“As an elected official, you have to look out for the township as a whole,” Weiss said, adding he feels sorry for “anybody who has a water issue.”

But a determination has to be made whether the town is responsible, he said.

“I have not been 100 percent convinced that the town is totally or even partially responsible,” Weiss said.

On Friday, Heinrich said she doesn’t think officials are really concerned about her situation.

“I’m mad at them,” she said. “I think they know that.”

The house that Zenda built

Heinrich’s father, William Wissell, died Jan. 15, 1953. She was 10.

“Dad had a serious heart problem for years,” Heinrich said, adding it concerned valve leakage, and Wissell had gone to Philadelphia for surgery.

She pointed to a dark brown checkbook and said her father “had gotten this color.”

Her mother, Marilyn Young Wissell Olcott, had four children to look after, Heinrich said. William had sold Studebakers at Huml, Lake Geneva. Marilyn, a farmer, had to find a way to make ends meet.

“My mother had four little girls and there was no Social Security for her, nothing like that,” Heinrich said.

In 1953, members of the Zenda community helped Marilyn by giving her and her family a home.

Charlie and Nellie Wilson donated property they had next to the Linn Town Hall. Heinrich said she has lists of all the people, businesses and organizations which donated something to make building the three-bedroom home possible. Zenda Lumber, the former Polyock Brick and Block, and Otto Jacobs are some of the businesses which helped.

“They even had parties at the town hall, several benefits, I guess is what you’d call them, for Mother,” Heinrich said.

The house was done in fall 1953.

“Mom only had to pay about $1,200,” Heinrich said.

About 40 years later, the house was moved to its current Pleasant Street location. According to a closing statement signed by then chairman David Bollweg, Marilyn sold the land to the town for $75,000. Heinrich said because of the sentimental value of the home, her mother paid to have the house moved.

“This stuff was all donated to us,” Heinrich said, referencing the flooring which still remains today. “My uncle’s hand put in the hardwood. They didn’t have the tools they use now to put it in and make it tight. There are spots where you can see huge gaps between the (floor boards) but I don’t think I’ll ever fill them in.”

She also said there was an issue with the town’s salt storage. According to Heinrich, who said this is what her mother told everyone, the town used to store salt in a shed mostly made of wood. That salt ate through the wood, destroying what Heinrich called her mother’s “notorious raspberry bed” and the house well and septic. That storage structure was bulldozed to make room for a town hall expansion.

A year of 100-year storms

Marilyn died in 2004, but Heinrich owns and lives in the home still. Around 2005, a row of trees were planted on the property and a 10-by-12 shed was built.

The flooding problems began a few years later.

“It comes almost 30 feet up into the yard. … I think 2009 was the absolute worst year,” she said.

Heinrich linked it to when the town worked on Zenda Road.

She said tiling was installed along both sides of the road in the early 1990s and “not until the last six years were there severe repercussions” because of heavy rains toward the end of the 2000s.

“We had three 100-year storms in 2009,” she said.

Heinrich said because of the flooding, she has lost a few trees. The shed had to be moved away from its original location near the edge of the property, she said, after two years of flooding caused the shed to rust.

“I gardened out there,” Heinrich said. “Our asparagus bed was out there.”

Hers isn’t the only property affected. She said the water “comes up to the back door” at the house across the street from her.

Luckily, it’s been an excessively dry year, Heinrich said, but she’s worried what will happen next spring when the snow thaws.

“If it gets any worse, I’m real afraid for my basement walls and my well, especially,” Heinrich said.