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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County BB Residents Ask Highway Committee For Action

For the second straight meeting of the Marinette County Highway Committee, several residents who live along County Highway BB in the Town of Peshtigo attended the meeting about their concerns. At the Wednesday, Oct. 3 meeting, the public comments were of consternation and frustration.

Reconstruction of CTH BB has been an on-again, off-again project in the Highway Department’s future list of plans for several years. Last year, it was scheduled for work in 2012, but a number of grant-funding discrepancies delayed the project.

A motion passed at the Sept. 19 meeting of the committee to transfer some of the current grant funding to other projects and rebuild CTH BB the way “we want to do it” may have given the residents present the idea that the project would be done in 2013. It was not. Nor was that the intent of the committee, because later in the meeting the committee discussed the road projects for 2013, which only included engineering on the BB. The paving would be pushed back to 2014.

It was this which led many of the CTH BB residents back to this meeting.

The meeting agenda included an item “Discuss/ consider request for drainage design proposals for CTH BB, action if any.”

Resident Chuck Boyle questioned why the county had hired a Highway Commissioner who did not have engineering abilities, and thus the county’s need to hire out engineering firms.

Town of Peshtigo Chairman Herman Pottratz asked the committee to keep the BB project on track. He also spoke about the changes that have taken place in the entire Highway Department in recent years.

Resident John Sturdy spoke on the culverts that have already been replaced and questioned whether or not flooding was really an issue along the highway since he has seen no evidence or was aware of any history of flooding. His concern was about the safety issued along the road and expediency he felt was needed to make it a safe road, not just a road filled with potholes and patches.

Jim Kollross, also a resident, questioned the schedule, preferring that everything be hastened along so that the paving could be done in 2013. Highway Commissioner Raymond Palonen said a drainage study and specific engineering needed to be done. This would take place in 2013, and the paving could not be done until 2014. He added there are a number of issues with CTH BB that need to be addressed before paving could be done.

Many of these issues were not a part of the original design that was pulled from the project schedule earlier this year. An example given was definitively determining the right-of-ways. This would be necessary since it appears that many residents seem to have encroached upon the county’s right-of-ways.

A resident then complained about the County Highway crews occasionally discarding large chunks of old asphalt onto or into the right-of-ways and also onto the property of the owners.

Another resident asked the committee to be concerned about accountability for past “waste” issues and to be responsive to cost concerns. His reference with “waste” stemmed from culvert replacements that have already been done and also “driveway cuttings” that took place in preparation for the project in 2012.

Palonen felt that the work that has already been done on CTH BB was appropriate for the problems. He added that ignoring the standing water and flooding, no matter how infrequent, costs the county a lot of money in the long run, too, with undermining the road’s base. He added, “We have to address all the safety concerns that are out there.”

A resident then opined that there was a developing public perception about the Highway Committee and that it was “getting cozy with engineering firms money-wise,” and that all of this was led to “the county being underwater financially.”

Supervisor Mel Sharpe responded the comment was out of line. Supervisor Joe Policello also challenged the statement that the county was “underwater” when it came to finances.

Very shortly after, Committee Chair Russ Bousley declared that the comments from the public were not adding anything new to the discussion and closed Public Comments.

When the agenda item came up for discussion, Supervisor Russ Bauer commented that “we need to get this process going as soon as we can.” Palonen explained the process cannot be started in 2012 because the highway budget dollars are not there to begin any sooner.

The request for proposals on drainage design would be timed so that the process can begin on Jan. 1. Once the firm is selected, the study and design will show everything that will need to be included in the project. With the permitting process and the necessary work of the utility companies, it does not look like the paving would be possible in 2013. The budget does not look good for paving in 2013 either.

The committee passed the motion to publish a request for proposal (RFP) for the drainage design on CTH BB.

The committee did say they understand the desire of the residents to have the project done as quickly as possible, but they also see their responsibility to perform due diligence so that the road lasts 20 to 30 years. To rush into it and miss problems may mean coming back in 6 to 8 years and do this all over again.

In other matters, the committee approved splitting a bid approved at the Aug. 28 meeting into two parts, one to inspect 87 bridges in the county, and the other to inspect the three bridges in the county that could require underwater inspections. The same company, OTIE, will still be doing all of the inspections.

After a long discussion, committee members approved eliminating the “live-bottom” feed boxes from the Department’s fleet. The units are under-utilized during the summer, which is wasting money. In addition, one of the units has had frequent mechanical problems over the past couple of years, which has led to high maintenance costs.

The two units under discussion are used primarily for salt/sand operations during the winter. The “live bottom” feed system means the trucks have a smaller load capacity and thus have to make more frequent trips to refill. While the “live bottom” system is better for application of material in areas with lower over-head lines or overpasses and in limited spot-graveling, the fact that units have limited use in the spring/summer/fall is the biggest concern.

The committee discussed the possibility of trading in the live bottom systems and retro-fitting the trucks with standard boxes, but decided to wait until after the winter season to do this. The live feed systems could then be sold and mostly fund the purchase of standard boxes, which would become part of the 2013 equipment budget.

The committee approved installing a water service to the vehicle storage area for the purpose of washing off the inside and outside of the winter salt trucks after use. Doing so would greatly delay the onset of rust and extend the life of the trucks. The drain in the storage area is sufficient to do this, and there is an existing water service to the building with sufficient water pressure, which would just have to be extended a bit. The storage area is heated.

The committee approved a cooperative project with the Town of Stephenson, subject to Corporation Counsel review, for work at the intersection of CTH W and Parkway Road. In the past, the County had installed a small retention pond near the intersection when that portion of CTH W was redone. A problem develops during heavy rains, in that the pond overflows and often floods a residence close-by.

The Town of Stephenson plans to dig a larger retention pond a short distance away from the residence and install a storm sewer from the small pond and intersection to the new pond. The town wants the county to help with the ditching, curb/gutter work, and paving. The total project is just over $255,000. The county’s share would be $55,000 and the project is also subject to funding availability.

The next meeting of the committee is Oct. 17, beginning at 8 a.m. The time was moved an hour earlier because the committee plans to do their annual “Fall Road Tour” of County Highways.

The Highway Supervisors and Shop Foreman updated members on the recent patching, shouldering and rubberizing work is being done. Some of this work has taken place on the State Highways, for which the county is reimbursed. The department has also been doing some grading and cutting for the Town of Middle Inlet, which also results in income for the County.

It was reported that the company doing the “crushing” will be finished soon, resulting in the County having a sizable stash of good, usable material this year. The status of the equipment units under repair was also discussed.

Vouchers totaling $143,093.63 were approved.


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