La Crosse water department faces challenges replacing outdated system

Communication system nearly obsolete

La Crosse water department faces...

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The communication system for the city of La Crosse's water, sewer and stormwater facilities is outdated, but the city’s park board says one proposal detracts too much from the natural beauty of La Crosse.

"The existing system is quite old, not reliable and will fail,” utilities manager Mark Johnson said.

In La Crosse, about 60 water facilities such as lift stations and wells are connected through a hard-wired communication system.

"This system communicates with kind of a central location, and it operates and collects data for daily operations of water, sewer and stormwater systems,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it's past time to replace that system with what he says is industry standard -- radio frequencies, which require antennas.

"But you have to deal with trees and buildings and things like that,” he said.

So, Johnson said, putting a 110-foot antenna tower way up high near the shelter structure on Grandad Bluff could be a good solution.

"Grandad is a unique location,” he said.

But it's precisely Grandad Bluff's uniqueness that had the city park board unanimously vote against on the antenna tower proposal Thursday night.

"It's a landmark out here. It's an icon of La Crosse,” park board director Eileen Kirsch said. "We really felt like Grandad Bluff is a jewel and this tower would be taller than the flagpole out there. People will notice it."

Still, Kirsch acknowledges the need for a new communication system in case things go wrong.

"My big example is for fires, whether you're going to have enough water pressure, or if your sewer systems are bad in a certain part of the city, nobody's going to be happy,” she said.

Now Johnson is looking at different options.

"We understand the beauty of Grandad, but the flip side of that is we have to figure out a system that will work,” he said.

Johnson said there could be multiple sites within the city where 80-foot antennas could be put in to accomplish the same thing as the proposed antenna tower on Grandad Bluff.

He said he'd like to have a new system in place this year.

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