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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette County Will Repave Hwy. E, Not D

The Marinette County Highway Committee has suspended all planned construction activities related to the controversial reconstruction of County BB (Shore Drive) in 2014. At its meeting on Wednesday, March 5 the committee agreed to allocate $1.5 million of the $3.5 million budgeted for the BB project to resurface County E from County D north to Hwy. 64, and from Hwy. 64 north to County G. That job had been slated for the 2015 construction in the 5-year capital improvement plan approved by County Board last year.

A news article last week left some confusion over which road is to be resurfaced in 2014. In one paragraph the repaving project was incorrectly identified as Hwy. D, which was just redone last year, and later in the article the project was correctly identified as County E.

The change in plans was recommended by Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen in view of the 21 official objections filed by property owners who received notices to remove encroachments. There were also 33 objections filed by property owners who do not have encroachments, but some may have right of way issues. The right of way dispute now apparently will be settled in Circuit Court, unless some other agreement is reached.

Palonen said because of the pending legal actions no engineering for the BB project can be done at this time. Engineering work needed includes preparing bid request documents. No road building can be done, and obstructions, including trees and utilities, cannot be cleared from the right of way, Palonen said. He told the committee there is not enough time to get all the legal issues resolved and preparation work done in time for the 2014 road building season.

Many BB residents and the Peshtigo Town Board have spoken in favor of resurfacing BB and adding 2-foot paved shoulders for walking and biking (a $2 million project), but have vigorously opposed the proposed $3.5 million reconstruction of the road between University Drive and Pond Road. That project includes constructing a 4-rod road complete with ditches and culverts in many areas. Several property owners say they have legal documents proving that the county right of way adjoining their property is for a three rod road, not four, and have indicated they are seeking legal counsel.

The Highway Committee in November offered to repave the entire road according to the $2 million plan favored by the town board, provided the town would then agree to a jurisdictional transfer through which it would become a town road. In December the Town Board rejected that proposal, contending that state highway aids do not cover the cost of maintaining the road.

Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz and Supervisor Don Pazynski, who represents the BB area on Marinette County Board, expressed their views during the public comment time at the start of the March 5 Highway Committee meeting.

Pazynski reviewed the history of citizen petitions opposing the project, including one that gained 100 signatures. He challenged contentions that the Highway Committee can change the funded projects for 2014 without approval of a majority of the full County Board. He said the road badly needs repaving as soon as possible, but in accord with the original $2 million plan, not the reconstruction in the $3.5 million project. He likened removing BB from the 2014 plan entirely to acting “like spoiled children” who want to “take your ball and go home.”

Pottratz questioned the need for new ditches and culverts on the highway, asserting that, “we never had a drainage problem on that road.” He also doubted the wisdom of attempting to bring all county roads up to state road standards.

During committee discussion of the motion to suspend the 2014 work on BB, Highway Committee member Joe Policello urged the town board to accept jurisdiction over BB after the county rebuilds it to the town’s specifications. He believes this option will save BB residents and the county money on both litigation and construction.

Committee member Mel Sharpe also urged Pottratz and the town to accept the road as the best solution all around. He said by accepting a newly repaved road they can collect road aids for perhaps 25 years without need for major work, and by taking ownership will prevent similar disputes over right of way in future years without the costs of going to court.

Committee member Shirley Kaufman, who has staunchly supported the town’s preferred plan for BB, agreed they need to suspend work on that road, at least for now. She commented allocating the $1.5 million for County E still leaves $2 million in the 2014 budget for repaving BB in accord with the original plan that the town favors.

Russ Bauer, the remaining committee member, was absent and excused. He also has consistently favored the $2 million version of plans for BB.

In the end, the Highway Committee voted unanimously in favor of both the motion to suspend BB work, and allocating the $1.5 million of capital improvement funds for repaving 5.7 miles of County E as recommended by Palonen. Palonen said County E is severely rutted, hard to maintain, and badly in need of new pavement. Work will consist of pulverizing the existing pavement, reshaping the road, and repaving it.

After the committee approved the two motions, Chair Russ Bousley commented the work still needs to be done on both BB and E. He added they have three years to use the bond issue proceeds, so one way or the other, BB will be done.

Palonen reported the 2013 budget year ended with a $265,000 gain for the Highway Department compared to a $200,000 loss in 2012. The turnaround comes from utilizing the county’s equipment more effectively and eliminating old equipment that’s unused, he said.

He also reported that a curb and gutter project on County C in Athelstane will need some engineering work to determine drainage patterns before the road improvements are planned.  He is currently seeking bids for that work. 

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) wrote to all County Highway commissioners about the continuing salt shortage. Palonen told the committee that the county has 2,000 tons of salt in reserve that have yet to arrive at county facilities. The Crivitz and Pembine highway shops each have about 700 tons of salt on hand. Palonen has cut back on sales of salt to cities, villages, and towns. 

He plans to seek bids from outside contractors for work on County roads R and W, work that will be heavily impacted by this summer’s rebuilding of Highway 41.

Patrol Supervisor Joe Baranek reported sand that has been mined from county owned land in Pembine is very good for the sand-salt mixture used after snowstorms. Selling sand to the state and municipalities has generated quite a bit of revenue for the department.

In other business, the committee recommended to the Marinette County Board the acceptance of a $32,028 bid from Ewald’s Automotive Group of Oconomowoc for a 4-door crew cab Dodge truck; a $10,433 bid from Olson Trailer and Body of Green Bay for a Dump Box and Tool Box if the chassis is purchased, and a bid of $23,344 from Palmen Motors of Kenosha for a Dodge Ram one crew cab pickup truck.

The Committee recommends approval of a maintenance agreement for line painting in Marinette and Oconto counties for $78,500. 

Palonen recommended the Committee reject two bids from Aring Equipment for a used asphalt distributor, believing that better equipment is available at a lower cost, and the committee accepted his advice.

Bousley called the 80 minute meeting to order at 9 A.M. The Committee will next meet on Wednesday, March 19 at 9 A.M. at the Peshtigo Highway Shop.


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