Home : Historical Center > Dorchester Sewer System History


The Village of Dorchester along with many other small communities who up
to this time had little or no funds to make improvements for the citizens that
the elected officials swore would make their lives better. Then along came a
long time resident and elected official by the name of Max Vircks who was
also a businessman in the community; he being the local tonsorial artist.
He saw where many others did not; that the deep economic depression the
United States was in could in fact be used to alleviate some of the hardships
that the ordinary citizen had to endure. The nation wide depression forced
the federal government into making funds available to those who had the
insight, the fortitude, the prestige and the strength to follow thru and make
improvements to their community.

One of those enduring hardships was having to step outside, walk 100 feet
thru a foot of snow; during the cold nights of the winter months to use the
outhouse. How could Max Vircks, village president and board member
remove this hardship from the people of the community. Apply for and be
approved by the WPA Program to build a community wide sewage system
which would provide for in house toiletry needs. He applied, he was
approved and the village citizens responded with a positive referendum vote.
The following information was obtained from the old local newspapers which
unfortunately during that time, the editor did not feel it necessary or did not
have enough space in the columns to adequately reflect the on-going activity
of the installation of the piping and of the sewage plant itself. However, I
believe there is sufficient data contained within to provide a reasonable
understanding of how the installation process progressed and as well to
reveal how the political process affected the different aspects of the
installation. So here goes!

The first mention of the Dorchester Sewer Project was detected in the
newspaper titled” The Dorchester Clarion” and was dated February 15, 1938.


Dorchester’s sewage project which received the sanction of voters at the last
spring election has received approval of WPA according to word received by
Village Clerk, S.C. Sorenson from Frank Davy, La Crosse, engineer who
conducted the survey of village streets last summer. It is the first project to
be granted the village since federal works projects were started.

When laid, the village sewerage system can be used only for drainage
purposes, village officials state, as no sewage will be allowed to be sent
through the mains because of sanitation restrictions. Sewage will be allowed
to go into the mains upon the completion of a disposal plant. Outlet for the
drainage will be located in the southwest corner of the village.

Arrangements to have funds available within the next several weeks are
being made by Ed Acker, Owen, district supervisor who drove to Menomonie
Saturday to confer with G.E. Wiseman, in charge of the district WPA office.
All labor for the project will be supplied by the WPA with the village to
furnish only a small percentage of funds for material.

No definite announcement has been made by WPA officials as to when the
project will be started.

February 22, 1938One Project Completed, Three Others Approved

One WPA project has been completed in the village and three other projects
were approved by WPA officials in addition to the sewer project approved
last week, according to Village Street Committeeman Fred Werner.

The completed project was the farm-to-market road project that included
repairing of the road from Memorial cemetery north to the Peace church
cemetery and the three blocks of Division street west from the Allar grocery
store. The project included ditching and graveling and the installation and
relaying of old culverts. Approximately $2,100 was supplied by the WPA for
labor and $560 for material on the project with the village furnishing
approximately $1,400 for materials and supervision.

The three projects approved by the WPA but not taken up by the village
included: The construction of cisterns for fire protection. Repairing of the
village hall, including the construction of a new roof, general repairs and the
painting of the building. And the paving of front street from the Block hotel
corner to the Allar grocery.


Federal funds for Dorchester village’s sewer project have been approved
according to word received by village officials from the Menomonie WPA
district office.

Ed Acker, WPA project supervisor, met with local officials here Thursday and
stated that work on the project would probably be started two weeks after
final approval of the village board had been received. Materials could be
shipped here within two weeks, he stated.
The sewer project will be considered by the village board at its regular
meeting Thursday evening. Original plans were to hold a special meeting but
because members of the board were unable to be present, it was decided to
combine the two meetings.

Present plans call for approximately $32,000 to be expended on the project
with 81.4 per cent of the funds to be supplied by WPA and the remaining
18.6 per cent by the village.

Commercial club members voiced approval of the project at their regular
meeting Thursday and discussion of the project was entered into by the
members. The discussion, led by M.E. Vircks, board member, brought out
that various savings to the village could be made on the matter of tools,
manhole covers and manhole bricks, which would lower the percentage of
the village’s share. Mr. Vircks stated that small tools for which the village
would be expected to expend approximately $270, could be gotten from
Menomonie headquarters at only a small fraction of that figure; that a saving
of about $2 each on the required 40 manhole covers, or $80 could be made
and that manhole brick, which would pass government inspection, could be
purchased at about one-tenth of the original estimated cost.

Following the sewer project discussion, Dr. F.P. Foley moved that Secretary
M.S. Sorenson get in touch with Senator F. Ryan Duffy regarding the
possibility of receiving additional funds for other village project work.

March 8, 1938Expect to Start Work on Village Sewer Project March 16

Work on the Dorchester village sewer project is expected to begin March 16,
according to information given Max E. Vircks, chairman of the village sewer
committee by Frank Davy, La Crosse engineer, who conducted the survey of
village streets last year. Sewer tile is expected to arrive here by that date.
Final approval of the project by the village board was given Friday evening
when the members unanimously passed the necessary resolution to borrow
funds in order that the project could be started. The money, totaling $3,000
which residents voted to raise at the spring election of 1937 and which will
be raised over a period of five years, will be borrowed by the village as it is
needed for digging, laying and constructing the sewers.

Friday’s meeting had been adjourned from the regular meeting the previous
evening in order that additional legal advice could be had regarding the
borrowing of the money. Approximately $32,000 will be needed to complete
the project according to WPA plans with WPA agreeing to supply 81.4 per
cent of the funds and the village the remaining 18.6 per cent. Project plans
also show that 54,740 man hours will be required to complete the work.
According to WPA officials about twenty workers will be ready to work on the
local project as soon as materials arrive.

The project is set up to include sewers for all village streets, covering
approximately three and four tenths miles. Plans show that 3,911 feet of 10
inch sewer pipe and 13,983 feet of 8 inch and 51 manholes will be required.
Mr. Halverson of the state board of health was present at Thursday’s board
meeting and spoke regarding the sewer project. When asked if the project
was sure to be completed, he stated that any project sent in to headquarters
previous to June 1937 would be completed.

In commenting on sanitation, Halverson stated that he believed it would only
be a matter of a few years before all villages or cities would be required to
provide sewage systems for their residents; and that villages and cities along
the Black River who have been running sewage into that river have been
notified to submit plans to the state for disposal plants before 1940.

March 15, 1938 — Ten Men Will Begin Work On Sewer Project Wednesday

Work on Dorchester village’s sewer project will get underway tomorrow,
Wednesday with a crew of ten men commencing digging operations. An
additional crew of ten men is expected to be added in a few days.
The first carload of tile for the sewers arrived yesterday and a second
carload has been requisitioned by WPA project inspector Ed Acker who was in
the village Friday. Additional material will be ordered when needed.
Mr. Acker and Frank Davy of La Crosse, village project engineer, attended
Friday’s meeting of the Dorchester Commercial Club and spoke to the
members regarding the project.  

Other guests of the club were Mr. Roberts of the Red Wing Culvert Co. whose
company will supply tile for the project and Wm. Tischendorf of the Town of
Holton who spoke regarding material for a proposed club house.

When the ten men report for work tomorrow, they will commence digging at
the outlet for the sewers at the bridge on fourth street north of the Mike
Schneider residence according to engineer Davy and continue up the center
of the road approximately 400 feet to the Erlei corner. Work will then
continue on the street east 100 feet to the Buehren’s corner and then north
up Front street 1300 feet. This line of sewer is being laid first Davy
explained, in order that the sewers would be laid to the Libby, McNeil and
Libby factory in time for use during the canning season which will begin
about July 1. Project plans call for the laying of sewers on every street in
the village. Only 10 inch tile will be used for this sewer line, the engineer
stated, with 8 inch line to be laid on most of the remaining streets.

Mr. Davy also stated that the average workman would be expected to dig
approximately eight feet of ground per day, including the laying and covering
of the tile. The greatest depth of the sewers would be 11 feet and would be
reached at a point near the O & N building on Front street ; the average
depth is 7 feet. M.E. Vircks, chairman of the village sewer committee,
drove to Menomonie today and will return this afternoon with tools to be
used on the local project.

Mr. Davy told the club members that now, while the sewers are being laid, is
a good time to think about the possibility of a water works system for the
village. Such a system, he stated; could be financed by a public utility bond
issue at no added cost to the taxpayers and with no obligation on the part of
the village. A public utility bond issue would only be chargeable against the
water system and not against any other property.

With a water system, the village fire insurance rate would be reduced one
third the present rate, Davy added. According to the report of the
commissioner of insurance for the state of Wisconsin; residents of the village
paid $3,411 in fire insurance premiums in 1936. With water for fire
protection, a saving of $1,170 would have been made that year.

Financing of a water system would be made through the collection of a
meter charge amounting to a $1.25 per month and by charging a village
hydrant rental which would amount to approximately the saving in reduced
insurance premiums.

March 22, 1938 — Work On Sewer Project Halted Temporarily

Digging operations on the village WPA sewer project were halted temporarily
this noon by the crew of ten men who began work Wednesday. Because the
men have worked their total allotted WPA hours for the month of March;
they will not resume work until April 1. A second crew is expected to begin
work on the project within several days.

Progress so far has been slow due mainly to the frozen conditions of the
ground. With the frost beginning to leave the ground the past two days, the
men also have been hindered by numerous cave-ins making it necessary to
put up braces in the trenches.

At the present time the men have dug approximately half the distance from
the bridge on Fourth street to the Erlei corner.

April 5, 1938 — 38 Men Employed On Sewer Project

Thirty eight men have been employed on the village sewer project the past
several days. The men work in shifts of 19 each three days a week.

It is expected that the sewer line will reach the Erlei corner on Fourth street
today with the digging then to continue east to Buehrens corner and then up
Front street. Approximately 100 feet of sewer tile had been laid Monday

M.E. Vircks, sewer committee chairman, stated yesterday that in the future
the streets on which work is being done will be closed to traffic until the
sewer trench has again been filled.

From April 5, 1938 to July 26, 1938 - the writer could find no data concerning
the progress of the sewer project in the local newspaper (The Dorchester
Clarion). However, it was during this time that the paper exchanged hands
and the new editor Mr. Merriman perhaps required time with which to be
come acquainted with what deserved space in his column. The writer will
double check to make sure that no vital data was overlooked.

July 26, 1939 — Local Sewer Project Work Progressing

Work on the sewer project in the past week has been progressing the past
week after being hindered by a cave-in due to the heavy rains and quicksand
which was struck at about a depth of 12 feet.

Six lengths of pipe were laid Monday in the main street sewer and digging
operations are in progress in front of the Fuchsgruber building. The sewer
pipe is being laid at a depth of approximately 14 ½ feet. Approximately 300
feet of sewer pipe has also been laid at a depth of about eight feet on south
second street where part of the crew of 32 men began digging operations
three weeks ago after work was slowed up on Front street.

From July 26, 1938 to July 6, 1939 — There were no additional newspaper
articles which referred to the continued building of the sewer system for an
entire year and I believe this had to do with a couple of issues. There was
extreme and unusual heavy rains which caused more problems then could be
overcome as one has to remember that all of the digging was done with pick
axe and shovel. Pick axe and shovel were the only tools utilized because it
would have been too difficult and expensive to move equipment from one
location to another. Also, heavy equipment would of completed projects too
fast as it was important that the men had work to do and using only basic
tools made the completion dates of projects extend out over long periods of
time. Other influences which I believe caused no news articles to appear in
the local paper is that it appears that they ran out of funds and now work
could be done until new funds were appropriated by congress. Additionally,
when the government reduced the pay from 40 cents per hour to 33 cents
per hour; numerous strikes throughout the country erupted and there are
articles which refer to that issue throughout these writings.

July 6, 1939 — WPA Resumes Work Wednesday After Lay-Off

The WPA workers on the Dorchester sewer project were put back to work
yesterday after being layed-off Friday, June 30th. The foreman, Mr. Collier,
announced that the layoff was made pending further orders from the state
and national authorities and the signing of the new appropriations bill by the
president. Orders were received Monday to resume work July 5th. The new
orders require those workers on WPA to put in 130 hours per month for a
wage of $40.00. The previous scale had been 100 hours per month for the
same wage.

July 13, 1939 — WPA Ordered To Resume Work At Once
Precautions taken though there has been no trouble on project here

That WPA strikes that have been spreading over the country have not been
felt in this immediate community but warnings have been issued by officials
that workers must abide by the new set-up.

The Clark County Relief Administrator communicated with Dr. F.P. Foley,
Village President, Tuesday morning, stating that any WPA worker who strikes
will be automatically discharged from WPA rolls and will be denied any
county, state or federal relief of any kind. This order has been made a
statutory condition throughout the United States.

Dr. Foley called the local WPA workers together Tuesday morning and gave
them the instructions he had received from the County administrator so that
they would be informed of the order. There has been no anticipation of a
local strike, or no tendency toward one but the order was passed on to the
workers in order that they would be reliably informed of the action WPA
officials are taking. This action comes as a result of the strikes and violent
protests that have been sweeping the country ever since the new regulations
went into effect. The strikers have even gone so far as to cause riots and
death in communities. The killing in Minneapolis was entirely uncalled for
and in the opinion of most people, can be traced directly to professional
agitators. These are the things the federal government wanted to curb.
The local sewer project will continue until the present allotment of funds
have been used up; then the workers will be switched to the water project.
This change will probably take place the later part of July or the first of
August. The workers have run into another section of quicksand and water,
causing numerous cave-ins, on the west town road near the Harold Kinyon
residence. This condition has caused quite a bit of trouble but the work is
now progressing nicely and they should be through the tough area in a short

July 27, 1939 — WPA Labor Halted Here Last Monday – Workers laid off until
water project receives starting instructions — New Hearing for Water issue
Slated Here for August 4th

The WPA workers on the Dorchester Sewer Project were layed off last
Monday because the project had used up the last allotment of money made
for the continuation of the work. There will be another allotment to finish
the sewers but this will not be made for a while. It is planned to put the
workers on the water project as soon as final arrangements are made.
Notices asking for bids on materials for the water project have been mailed
out and the bids are to be opened today at 2 p.m.

The water project will be held up for a while pending a new hearing before
the Public Service Commission. The hearing will be held in Dorchester so as
to give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinions to the Commission.
This hearing is now scheduled for August 4. The new hearing before the
commission grew out of a signed petition sent to them giving names of
people who signified that they would not connect up to the water if it was
installed in the village. Although the commission has already granted the
village authority to go ahead with the project, they deemed it wise to
reopen the case in view of this petition.

The two points the Public Service Commission are interested in are necessity
and convenience of the water system. If they find that the village needs
public water and that it will be a convenience to have it, they will be
satisfied to stand by their former decision. If however, they find strong
evidence to disprove these two points, their decision to grant the village
power to act as a public utility might be altered. Should the commission
uphold their first decision, work on the project could proceed immediately.

The following telegram regarding the new appropriation for the Sewer
Project has just been received from senator Wiley: The President has
approved WPA Project No. 40042 to construct complete sanitary sewer
system in amount $15,927. Suggest you contact State Administrator for
final approval which depends on availability of funds and presence of
certified relief labor. Signed A. Wiley,USS

May 16, 1940 — Let Contract for Disposal Plant to F.J. Davy & Son

The contract for preliminary plans on a disposal plant for the Village of
Dorchester was let to Frank J. Davy and Son, La Crosse, last Wednesday
evening at an adjourned meeting of the village board. Preliminary plans are
to be drawn up by the engineers and bids for construction will be received in
the near future.

President Approves New Project for Village Modernization

The final step in the Dorchester Modernization program was assured this
week when the following telegram was received by Dr. F.P. Foley, Village
President: President has approved and released to state administrator
sewage treatment project. Signed: Robert LaFollette Jr.

This means that in the very near future the Dorchester Sewer and Water
project will be completed and ready for use. The federal grant was for
$20,304 which with the village share of $14,871 makes the total project
come to $35,121. The village share will be raised on a utility basis with
bonds sold against the disposal system and not a direct obligation to the
village. In other words, revenue from the operation of the plant would retire
the bonds and take care of the operation of the system.

Preliminary plans were drawn up by Frank Davy and Son, La Crosse engineers,
who also had charge of the sewer and water projects for the village. The
plans have been O.K’d by the State Board of Health and the project is ready
to go as soon as the village board sells the bonds to a bonding house. This
will be taken up at the regular meeting of the board September 6th.

The disposal plant will be located on the Mead property, south west of the
village near the creek which was purchased for the purpose last year. The
plant will be of the trickling filter, separate sludge digestion type and will
include a screen chamber, primary settling tank, lift pumps and secondary
settling tank. It will be housed in one building which will be built of stone
and brick. Figured on a percentage basis the government is furnishing 57.8
per cent of the funds needed and the village will raise the other 42.2 per
cent by utility bonds.

September 12, 1940 — Disposal Plant Bonds Subscribed For Friday
Madison Firm Will Deliver $20,000 Issue About October 1st

At its regular meeting last Friday evening the Village Board offered a bond
issue of $20,000 for sale. The issue was subscribed by the Bell and Ferrell
Co., of Madison, Wis. They will issue the bonds at 4 per cent interest.
$15,000 of the amount will be put with the Federal grant of $20,304 to build
the sewage disposal plant; $3,000 will be used to clear up the debt on the
sewers and $2,000 will apply towards the water project.

According to the bonding house delivery of the bonds will be made about
October 1st. This will coincide with the starting of actual work on the
disposal system.

The preliminary plans have already been okeyed and Mr. Davy, the engineer
has been given authority to proceed with the actual plans. WPA officials
have notified the board that they will start work as soon as the bonds are
ready and the plans in order. This will be about Oct. 1.

September 12, 1940 — To Celebrate Water & Sewer Completion

Commercial Club and Businessmen Cooperate in Big Event
The long awaited, long talked about Dorchester Water and Sewer Completion
Celebration is now going to be a reality. Members of the Commercial Club
are cooperating with the businessmen to make the day one long to be

Saturday, September 21st is the date that has been set and activity will start
at 10 o’clock in the morning. A definite program will be arranged tonight
when all the committees will meet at the Club House. It will be announced
in the Clarion next week: Committees for the affair are as follows:
Kittenball: Rinka, Ketterl, Lawrie, Sedlack and Hinke. Contests for Ladies
and Children: Horse shoes, Boxing: McVey, Beck, Mas Kronschnabl and M.S.
Sorenson. Water Fight: E.I. Genrich, Ray Holtz and Harold Martens. Tug of
War: Hiebsch and Henry Genrich. Prizes: M.E. Vircks, Frome, Merriman, Al
Sauter, Frank Seidel and Lester Vircks. Games: Dr. A.W. Schief, Frank Hunt
and Merriman. Dance: Frome, Jantsch, Fuchsgruber, H. Martens and ray
Holtz. Dance Lunch Stand: Fuchsgruber, Jantsch, E.I. Genrich, Kraut, C.M.
Vircks and J. Kronschnabl. Concessions: Fire Department, Hiebsch, L.
Sorenson, Erickson and Merriman. Advertising: L.D. Sorenson, C.M. Vircks,
Werner and Don Sauter. Sale Committee: Rutzky, Werner, D. Schreiber,
Beck, Erickson, E.I. Genrich, Joe Sebold, Edgar Paulson and Al Sauter.
Band: Laux and McVey. General Assistants: Dr. Foley, Max Kronschnabl, J.
Kronschnabl, A. Leach, Kraut, G. Copeland, E. Leach, Laack, Kinyon, Rinka,
Ketterl, Krakenberger, Carl Mertens, Seigert, Pete Miller and H. Buehrens.
September 26, 1940 —Water and sewer Celebration held Last Saturday
Dorchester’s Water and Sewer Completion Celebration was fairly well
attended last Saturday. The crowd was held down because of the great
number of farmers filling silo. Those who attended enjoyed an afternoon of
sports, races and contests, with boxing matches and a free dance in the

The kittenball game was won by the married men from the town of Mayville
17 to 16 over the married men from the town of Holton. The tug of war
between the two townships was won by Holton. In the horseshoe pitching
contest Delbert Dake and Edward Werner won first and Vernon Underwood
and Gene Roberts won second.

In the girls races, Marcella Vogl won first in the dash and Estella Puescher
second. Adeline Stoiber won first in the bicycle race and Dorothy Stoiber
and Beverly Genrich were tied for second.

In the boys races, James Herman won first in the dash and Herbert Scidmore
was second. In the relay race, Schumacher, Ulrich and Sauter were first and
Chas. Pethers, Elmer Fenzal and Richard Patterson were second.

The main attraction of the evening was the boxing match between Alvin
Krause and Ben Reilly. Reilly was awarded the decision in three rounds but
the crowd thought it should have been the other way.

In the preliminary bouts Clarence Gebert fought Albert Strassberger, Donald
Paulson and Gordon Schief mixed it up and Don Underwood and Kenneth
Schumacher traded blows. Billy Bowe and Jerry Pickett wrestled in the first
match of the evening.

March 5, 1942 — Disposal Plant Now In Operation

The disposal plant for the Village of Dorchester is now in operation, taking
care of the sewage of the village. Final operation has been held up because
of the inability to secure a certain valve, but that has finally been delivered
and the plant started operating last Wednesday, Feb. 25. Anyone wishing to
inspect the plant should get in touch with the marshal and he will be glad to
show the plant in operation

The sewer project was started in March 1938 and completed at a cost of
about $32,000. A WPA grant of $29,000 and direct obligation bonds of the
village for $3,000 provided the necessary funds.

October 12, 1972 — Bids Are Let For Village’s New Sewage Disposal Plant

Thomsen-Abbott Construction Co., of Rothschild was awarded the general
contract for construction of Dorchester’s new sewage treatment plant.
Contracts were let by the Village Board of Trustees at the bid opening during
the regular monthly meeting Wednesday night of last week.

Total bid price was $211,052. Thomsen-Abbott bid $178,369 for general
contract; and also was awarded contracts for plumbing $9,334 and heating
and ventilating $9,370. K & M Electric of Schofield was awarded the
electrical contract for $13,979. There were two other bidders on the
project which is to be completed within one year.

Total cost of the new disposal plant was estimated earlier this year at
$248,000 of which the federal government will contribute 50 per cent and
the state government 25 per cent. The plant will be built just west of the
present sewage disposal plant.
Land for the site was recently acquired from Alvin Meyer. A road to the site
will be built from Center Avenue in the vicinity of the Winchell home.
The new plant, made necessary by demands of the Department of Natural
resources (DNR) for more efficient treatment of wastes, will be the aerator
type, operating through three lagoons, built according to DNR specifications.
Two of the lagoons will be 420 x 160 and the third 230 x 90. All will be
approximately 10 feet deep and will be fitted with equipment to accomplish
proper treatment of waste materials.

January 4, 1973 — Grants Made For Over Half Cost Of New Sewer System

Congressman David Obey has announced a grant from the Environmental
Protection Agency to the Village of Dorchester for $12,250. The grant will be
used for the construction of a new secondary waste and water treatment
plant. Previous grants of $122,500 plus the new grant now total 55 per cent
of the estimated total cost of the project.

The article above was in the last edition of The Dorchester Clarion. With a
few interruptions; when the paper had financial troubles or the paper
exchanged ownership “The Dorchester Clarion” appeared as a way for the
Dorchester community to know what was going on in the neighborhood from
September 8, 1900 to January 4, 1973.

So to complete the history of the Dorchester Sewer System - a little
ad libbing is necessary. With the completion of the 1973 sewer expansion
that took place; the sewer system went from a sludge digestion method to a
lagoon settling aeration system.

July 14, 1992 — The aeration waste water disposal system worked extremely
well for 20 years but now an increase in volume has demanded an expansion
of the existing system. It was on this date that the village board awarded a
contract to Staab Construction Company of Marshfield in the amount of
$552,900 to expand the existing lagoon system. Previously three lagoons
(approximately 3 acres in size) would now be increased by two additional
lagoons (approximately an additional 7 acres) with one large lagoon
functioning as a long term retention pond and a smaller finishing pond which
functions as the final process and preparation for the water to be emptied
into the north branch of the Poplar River. The project was completed in
mid 1993 and the final payment was made October 6, 1993.