Monument To Mark Downtown Beaver Dam Flooding

(Beaver Dam) This June will mark the ten-year anniversary of the floods that ravaged downtown Beaver Dam and city officials are talking about building a memorial. Common Council President Robert Ballweg says the plan is to use some of the rubble of the eleven buildings that were razed. Ballweg says in addition to a memorial of the event itself, there should be some recognition of the individuals who “took a leap of faith…after the flood event.” The “leap of faith” that Ballweg is referring to is the plan by city officials, led by former Mayor Tom Kennedy, to immediately demolish the privately-owned buildings that were constructed over the Beaver Dam River a century ago, which became a violation of modern state statute. As part of an effort to minimize the number of buildings throughout the state constructed in a flood plain – in Beaver Dam’s case some were literally built right over the river – the state legislature enacted a law capping the amount building owners could invest in upkeep. The law essentially made the downtown buildings worthless with property owners unable to invest in simple flood repairs. In addition, the Department of Natural Resources at any time could have ordered the buildings removed at the owner’s expense. That’s when the city stepped in with a buyout offer and, after backlash from offering 65-cents on the dollar, offered downtown property owners 100-percent of the assessed value of their buildings (note, the building owners ultimately received the pre-flood market value). Ballweg says the city hoped the DNR would provide grant funding for the project but there was no guarantee. The DNR ultimately did give the city several million dollars for the acquisition and demolition. He says the recognition would be simple, consisting of a plaque and maybe a bench from the bricks of the eleven buildings along Front Street. The plans for the memorial were discussed in the Operations Committee late last year and the committee agreed to continue discussions and hammer out the details over the course of future meetings.