Wesenberg Retires After
Four Decades of Service to Granton


Dale Wesenberg 2016


Dale Wesenberg strikes a pose Thursday in front of the Village of Granton shop. 
Wesenberg will be retiring from his position as wastewater operator Friday,
May 27, after 43 years of dedicated service
(Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)



By Todd Schmidt


It is amazing how the years fly by.


Dale Wesenberg, 77, has been serving as the wastewater operator for the village of Granton since April 30, 1973.  He has decided to retire from the position after 43 years of dedicated service.  His last day of employment will be Friday, May 27.


Wesenberg sat in his modest office located in the village shop Thursday and reminisced about his long and steadfast career.  At one point during the interview his replacement, Josh Opelt, stopped in for some advice about mowing the village cemetery.


He said Opelt was employed at the Lynn Dairy protein plant and started working for the village May 9.  Opelt has a college degree from UW-Stevens Point and will need to attend classes at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CTVC) and pass a test to become a certified wastewater operator.


Opelt is now considered an operator in training.  He will need to gain a year’s experience in the job before he can obtain an official license as a wastewater operator.


In the meantime, Opelt will work alongside Mark Ramberg, who serves double duty as the village constable.  Ramberg is currently licensed as a water operator and as a wastewater operator.  He and Wesenberg have worked as a utilities team for the village since 1981.


“I think this is a good thing,” Wesenberg said.  “You should know a lot about the job you are supposed to do before they give you a license.”


Village Clerk Joye Eichten shared a copy of the wastewater/utility operator job description.  The employee is expected to spend 25 percent of his/her time on wastewater job responsibilities and the remainder of the time on general maintenance of the village within a 40-hour workweek.


Duties include snow plowing, mowing, cemetery upkeep, street sweeping and building repairs.


“You are expected to be professional when dealing with the general public,” the job description states.  “You will be expected to communicate and maintain a good working environment with other employees and the village board.”


Wesenberg, who served a term on the village board before he was hired as wastewater operator, sums it up another way.  “You have to be prepared for whatever comes up and deal with what everybody wants,” he said with a smile.


Wesenberg worked as the TV repairman at the Neillsville Gambles Store before he took the job with the village of Granton.  He said there was an increasing amount of paperwork in the retail business.


“Now the paperwork in this job is way more than it used to be,” he said.  “The DNR wants more reports and needs more forms filled out.  I don’t really enjoy that part of this job.  It seems like there is a lot of time wasted.  You don’t seem like you are accomplishing anything.”


Wesenberg said in the early days, no pun intended, village workers did what they had to do to keep their heads above water.  Initially, he worked with one Lawn Boy 21-inch push lawnmower to mow all the grass in the village.  Now the village owns two 72-inch riding mowers and two push mowers.


“I guess things change over time,” he said.


When he started, the village operated a mechanical trickling filter wastewater treatment plant.  In 1985, an aerated lagoon system was built, with three ponds stretched out on half of a 20-acre site.


“I think the DNR would outlaw a lagoon system now,” he said.


A lagoon system is difficult to monitor, because the retention ponds all have different water levels.


“You can keep track of the gallons coming in,” he explained.  “It is not an exact thing, especially in a wet year.  The theory is evaporation and rain balance out.”


Wesenberg said the wastewater treatment system averages 23,000 gallons per day, up to a high of 12 million gallons per year.  Discharge of approximately 6 million gallons is done both in April and November.  He said the village has never had a problem meeting the DNR permit levels.


The system has issues with excess ammonia in the spring, so operators add sulphuric acid to keep the PH level down.  Wesenberg said chlorine was the additive of choice years ago, but that process was scuttled due to close proximity to the school building, which triggered the need for an evacuation plan for the whole school system.


Phosphorus is the big gorilla in everyone’s closet now.  Wesenberg said the phosphorus level coming into the plant is 3.32 mg/l, which is still much higher than the DNR’s proposed threshold of .075 mg/l.


“Doing a jar sample, .35 mg/l is about as low as we can get it,” Wesenberg said.  “We would have to put in a new treatment plant to get the phosphorus level that low (.075 mg/l),” he said.  “How do 350 people afford a $5 million treatment plant?”


The village of Granton is working with MSA Engineering on an application for an economic variance exemption for meeting the proposed phosphorus limit.


Wesenberg said the discharge permit application is due to the DNR by April 2017.  He said Granton’s wastewater treatment permit expires in September 2017.


Wesenberg and Ramberg check the lagoons and lift stations daily.  Pump maintenance is done once per week.


“One nice thing about a lagoon system is you are not tied down to the plant all day,” Wesenberg said.


Granton operates one sewer lift station that was put online in 1985.  Wesenberg said the pumps are obsolete.


The village applied for a grant to fund a lift station replacement project, estimated to cost $100,000, including new computerized (SCADA) controls.


Wesenberg said the village’s utility infrastructure is in pretty decent shape.


“Over the years, we have replaced some of the wastewater lines that were in the worst condition,” he said.  “Budgets are getting tight.  There is only so much money to go around.  We certainly can’t do everything we would like to do.”


Over the years, Wesenberg said things have changed slowly in Granton.


He said the railroad borrowed fill dirt for years, causing a steep slope near the new fire hall.  The village purchased a backhoe to clean up that area.


Village workers also rehabbed the triangle along CTH K and installed a handicapped ramp at the village park.  New wells were explored, replacing the old hand-dug well that was 24-feet deep.


“The new well has a lot lower iron content,” he noted.  “We must have punched $60,000 to $70,000 worth of holes around town to find a good one.”


Wesenberg helps out Chili with wastewater treatment issues.  He is retiring from that position also.


“I really enjoy the work, but it is getting to be too much,” he said.  “I don’t get everything accomplished in a day that I want to.”


Wesenberg said his wife has a few health problems, which is another factor in his retirement.  He said he likes to fish, and he used to hunt deer, fox and elk.


“What I will do in retirement is whatever I can afford,” he said.


Eichten said Wesenberg is very tenacious and is a great worker.


“It is amazing how much dedication and loyalty Dale has to the village,” Eichten said.  “It shows in the years of service he has put in.  He will definitely be missed.  Hopefully, he has passed on his wealth of knowledge to the new guy.”


Wesenberg said if needed, he would be available to answer questions.


“Josh seems to be a pretty cool kid,” Wesenberg said.  “My biggest piece of advice to him is having thick skin.”


Wesenberg agreed to have a retirement and appreciation party at the end of his last day of work.  Well-wishers are invited to stop by the village shop Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p. m.  Eichten said a special cake with brown frosting will be served at the event.



  Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

May 25, 2016

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon, May 26, 2016

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, May 27, 2016

Return to Grant Township Community Web Page

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