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updated: 5/13/2018 4:50 PM

More signs, lights, to warn of Batavia dam's dangers

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  • The Batavia dam, and the surround area, will get more warning signs and lights as part of a city effort to make the area more safe, and keep its liability insurance coverage.

    The Batavia dam, and the surround area, will get more warning signs and lights as part of a city effort to make the area more safe, and keep its liability insurance coverage.
    Daily Herald file photo, 2013

 
 

The Batavia dam is getting lights, and a lot more signs, to warn people of its dangers.

The city is installing 20 signs, from approximately Logan Street south to the dam, including red "Danger! Dam (X) feet ahead!"; signs directing canoeists to portage areas; and signs below the dam warning that it has a boil that can kill a person.

Two floodlights illuminating the dam already are in place, and plans call for two more to light up the "last resort" signs nearest the dam.

All is being done so the city can get liability insurance coverage on the run-of-the-river lowhead dam built in 1911.

The Association of State Dam Officials has nicknamed lowhead dams "drowning machines" because they create circular traps, also known as hydraulic boils, that are difficult for people to escape. One of the new signs will feature a depiction of a person caught in such a boil.

Bids for the signs and remaining lights are due May 24. The city expects the $20,000 project to be finished by July.

Aldermen Dave Brown voted last week against the intergovernmental agreement for installation and maintenance of the signs and lights. The agreement gives the city permission to put the lights and signs on Batavia Park District property, including part of the Riverwalk near the west end of the dam.

Brown contends the state owns the dam, and therefore it should not be city's responsibility.

But a 2017 investigation by City Administrator Laura Newman showed the dam, or at least rights of way for access to it, was deeded to the city in 1975 by its previous owners and the park district. The state would not repair a breach in the dam unless the city had that right of way.

The city council adopted an ordinance in 1994 conveying the dam to the state, but there is no evidence it sent the ordinance to the state. No transfer was recorded, and a title search showed the city as the owner, Newman's report states.

Brown's father, Robert Brown, was mayor in 1975. In 2017, Brown said he recalled his father telling him, "'Don't let anybody tell you Batavia owns that dam.'"

"As long I'm sitting here I am going to have that argument," Brown said.

His was the only "no" vote.

"I think we have to get beyond that question (of ownership)," Alderman Alan Wolff said.

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