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County records first COVID-19 hospitalization

New cases of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 have slowed in Price County, with only two more individuals testing positive for the virus since last week.

The county has seen its first hospitalization due to the virus, however, which was announced by the Price County Public Health Department on July 29. As of Tuesday, that individual — an elderly adult — remained hospitalized.

To date, 1,827 people in Price County have been tested for COVID-19, with a total of 21 confirmed cases. Of those who received COVID-19 diagnosis, 17 have recovered, and four remained active cases as of Monday evening.

Statewide, there have been 55,328 confirmed cases, 9,866 of which were still active as of Monday. There have been a total of 4,732 hospitalizations and 949 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 44,495 people have recovered from the virus.

Oneida County continues to lead the region with the

highest COVID-19 numbers, with 94 confirmed cases, 18 active cases, 76 recoveries, and seven hospitalizations. Iron County has had 73 confirmed cases, 15 active cases, 58 recoveries, and one death. Lincoln County has had 63 confirmed cases, 11 active cases, and 52 recoveries. Taylor County has had 54 confirmed cases, but has not released any recent information on recoveries or active case numbers. Sawyer County has had 41 confirmed cases, 24 recoveries, and three hospitalizations, but has not released information on active case numbers. Vilas County has had 47 confirmed cases, 33 active cases, 14 recoveries, and two hospitalizations. Ashland County has had 25 confirmed cases, five recoveries, and three hospitalizations, but has not released information on active case numbers. Rusk County has had 16 confirmed cases, four active cases, 11 recoveries, and one death.

City orders demolition of ramshackle buildings

The City of Park Falls has declared buildings on 12 private properties dilapidated and dangerous and issued raze orders calling for the demolition of those buildings by Labor Day.

Letters have been sent to each of the property owners, notifying them the Common Council, by a 6-1 vote, has deemed the buildings dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary, or "otherwise unfit for human habitation and that repair of the building is unreasonable," as reads Resolution 20-014, passed by the council at its July 27 meeting.

The resolution states the cost of repairs to each of the buildings would exceed 50% of the assessed value of the building, therefore qualifying them for a raze order under Wisconsin law.

The affected property owners have been given until Aug. 14 to respond.

City administrator-clerk Brentt Michalek told council members that all property owners would be given the option to bring their buildings into compliance, raze the property themselves, waive their rights to the property and let the city demolish the buildings, or challenge the raze order in court.

In cases where no response is received by the deadline, the city can post notice of the raze order, serve notice, and then raze the building. Costs incurred by the city to raze structures would be specially assessed on the property owner's tax bill.

According to a discussion at the meeting, only one of the buildings is currently occupied.

Second District Alderman Chris Hoffman cast the lone no vote. First District Alderman Dennis Wartgow abstained.


Properties receiving raze orders include the following: 172 2nd Ave. N.; 184 2nd Ave. N.; 307 1st Ave. N.; 349 5th Ave. S.; 349 8th Ave. S.; 449 Division St.; 459 Division St.; 498 Avery Ave.; 621 7th Ave. S.; 744 3rd Ave. N.; 973 9th St. S.; 277 1st St. N.

Phillips seeking residents' assistance to resolve wastewater issue

Clean water flooding the sanitary sewer system continues to pose a problem in the City of Phillips, with this year's heavy rainfalls contributing to the overwhelming inflow of water entering the city's wastewater treatment plant.

In the last two months, approximately 16 inches of rain have been received — making the issue critical, according to treatment plant superintendent Todd Toelle, who apprised the city council of the matter back in early July.

Known as "inflow and infiltration," the issue arises when rainwater or groundwater — which does not need treatment — enters the city's sanitary sewer system and is transported to the wastewater treatment plant in high quantities, usually during severe rain events. The dramatic influx of water enters the treatment plant at a rapid rate, disrupting the bacteria used to break down the waste, and puts unnecessary strain on equipment.

When the treatment plant becomes overwhelmed and can no longer handle the quantity of water being taken in, untreated water — which may include raw sewage — has to be released into the lake. While this has not occurred in the last two years, it remains a concern, according to Toelle.

Stormwater and groundwater can enter the city sewer in a variety of ways, including sump pumps that drain into the city sewer, cracked sewer laterals running between the city sewer and a private residence, drains in basements and garages that connect to the sewer system, and damage to public infrastructure.

In the past five years, Toelle's department has worked to identify what is contributing to the issue in Phillips' case. During severe storm events, cameras are inserted into the sewer lines, allowing crews to identify which properties are sending unusually high quantities of water into the city sewer.

The problems are often the most severe in aged houses, where laterals may be cracked or damaged by tree roots, allowing groundwater to enter the system. Over the past several years, several residential and business properties have been identified as contributing to the issue, and many have re-

solved the problem areas, according to Toelle.

City engineer Mike Stoffel of Ayres Associates told the city council that this has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of clear water coming into the treatment plant, going from upwards of a million gallons a day during a severe weather event to 600,000 gallons a day.

However, with heavy rainfalls, the problem continues to be an issue, according to Toelle. Currently, there are approximately 12 residences that have been identified as contributing to the problem, and Toelle told the Review that the city is working with the property owners to come into compliance with the city's ordinance.

According to Toelle, the ordinance allows the city to take action if homeowners do not resolve the issues on their own, and may eventually result in their city water being shut off if compliance is not reached. Toelle told the city council in early July that the property owners in questions would receive a 30day notice, asking them to take steps to resolve the runoff issues identified on their properties.

Neither a copy of the letter or the city's ordinance was not provided to the Review before presstime.

However, Toelle told the Review that the city would prefer to work with residents rather than taking punitive action.

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