County Seeking Bids For BB Tree, Brush Removal
After months of controversy, reconstruction of County BB (Shore Drive) in the Town of Peshtigo appears to be as unsettled as it ever was. At a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8, the Marinette County Highway Committee was officially informed by Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen that the town had rejected their offer to rebuild the road from University Ave. to County BB to the towns specifications, contingent on the towns agreement to then accept ownership of the road.
Later in its Jan 8 meeting the Highway Committee, by 3 to 2 vote, authorized Palonen to seek proposals to remove brush, trees and stumps from the county right of way on the proposed project, from University Ave. to Pond Road. Supervisors Russ Bauer and Shirley Kaufman were opposed. Motion to go forward was made by Supervisor Joe Policello, seconded by Supervisor Mel Sharpe, and approved by Supervisor Russ Bousley, who chairs the committee.
The threat of legal action doesnt bother me, Policello declared before moving to proceed.
A considerable amount of heated discussion preceded that vote. Bousley maintained encroachments need to be removed for liability concerns. Bauer and Kaufman asked how the county can order cutting when the right of way remains unsettled.
Dispute remains as to whether or not the county actually owns 66 feet of right of way along the entire length of the road. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said they do, and she has seen no deeds to the contrary, only old plats. Project report by engineers for Robert E. Lee said the county probably does own the full 66 feet.
At past meetings, several town residents who own property in the reconstruction area presented documents indicating a narrower right of way. Town Attorney Dave Spangenberg has advised town residents they would have legal basis to pursue their claims, but would have to retain their own legal counsel. There have been predictions of extended court battles should the county go forward with requirements to remove encroachments, which now appears will be done.
The proposed reconstruction of Shore Drive has been sought by town residents for several years. Improvements costing $1.5 million were slated to be done about two yeas ago. The redesign into a $3.5 million project came after Palonen became highway commissioner and declared the earlier plans were insufficient.
The new design includes raising the level of the road in many areas, and widening it to a 4-rod road which in many places would have deep ditches necessitating culverts under driveways. Both plans call for bicycle and walking shoulders on each side of the road.
In late summer 99 property owners with buildings, fences or plantings inside the 4-rod right of way claimed by the county were notified they would have to remove encroachments. Among the structures that would need to be moved is a stone arch dating to the 1940s or before. Trees, shrubs and a garage or two would need to be moved, and utilities would need to be relocated.
Those letters drew a firestorm of objections from a majority of property owners in the project area, many of whom wanted provision for 3-foot shoulders to accommodate bicycle and foot traffic, but objected to the proposed ditching and to the 4-rod right of way. They maintain there is no need for ditches, and never has been water standing alongside the road.
In November the Highway Committee authorized Palonen to extend the offer to rebuild the road from University Ave. at the Marinette City Limits to its western terminus at County B, contingent on the town then accepting ownership of the road.
At its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, the town refused to take jurisdiction, and instead approved a letter expressing appreciation to the Highway Commissioner for agreeing to reconstruct the road in accord with town wishes, but declaring there was no need for the jurisdictional transfer.
After reporting this response at the Jan. 8 Highway Committee meeting, Palonen commented since the town rejected the jurisdictional transfer, the countys proposal is off the table,and were back to where we were a month and a half ago. He said they needed to go forward with removing the encroachments so power companies can get their lines moved. He said because the project is being funded by bonding, the money has to be spent within a two year time period. He said if the money isnt spent on BB it will need to go for another project. He said no buildings or homes will need to be moved.
During time for public comment comment at the start of the Jan. 8 Highway Committee meeting, Town Chair Herman Pottratz, Supervisor Don Pazynski and resident Laurie Davidson spoke on the BB issue, urging the Committee not to include the ditches and culverts.
Pazynski reminded the committee the area in question is not a remote rural road, it is high density residential area, with 243 homes fronting on BB and a total of 350 homes counting side roads accessed by BB.
He and Pottratz argued that building according to the original plans will make residents happy and free up $2 million that could be spent on some other county road.
Davidson expressed hope that this can be settled in a way that keeps Shore Drive as rustic as possible.
All three speakers, in concert with Kaufman, urged some compromise on the rebuilding plan.
Kaufman called the encroaching stone arch historic, while others termed in an encroachment.
The committee approved a request from Pemenee River Riders Snowmobile Club to use the ditch on County O between Barlow Lake Road and County N as a temporary snowmobile route for the 2014 season, contingent on the club obtaining and complying with an agreement from the Highway Department for a period that will end on March 31.
No action was taken on a WisDOT proposal to fund 90 percent of $118,300 in improvements to County U through the High Risk Rural Road Program. The county would need to provide the remaining 10 percent. The proposal calls for installation of edgeline markings, roadway rumble strips and reflective signs with chevrons at curves between Hwy. 8 and the county line.
The committee was informed that the state declined their request to turn County T south of Hwy. 64 into a state highway. Discussion indicated the states concerns are future development along County T, a traffic rate that doesnt support the transfer, and reference to downtown Marinette being serviced by three locations.
An offer from Wisconsin Public Service to convert the overhead power service to the departments Pembine Shop to underground service at its expense whilewas accepted. The County will bear the expense of installing a new meter and connecting it. Current electrical connections to the building date back to its construction in the 1940s.
Commissioners approved the payment of $215.799.95 in vouchers
Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen reported that the department would seek bids for the purchase of three tri-axle trucks, one of which would be shared with the County Forestry Department. A new mechanic will begin working for the Department on Monday, Jan. 13, and the department is still looking to employ a heavy truck operator. Patrol Superintendent Joe Baranek reported that the County used almost all of the sand and salt it had on hand during the December snowstorms and was replenishing its stock.
Next meeting is at 9 A.M. on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Peshtigo Highway Shop.
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