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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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T/Peshtigo Rejects Ownership Of BB

At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17 Peshtigo Town Board agreed to send a letter to Marinette County Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen and all 30 County Board Supervisors accepting a county offer to resurface County BB (Shore Drive) and add 3-foot shoulders as the town has requested, but rejecting an associated provision that they also accept a jurisdictional transfer giving the town future responsibility for care and maintenance of the road.

During time for public comment at the meeting, County Supervisor Don Pazynski advised compromise, and expressed concern the county might not do the improvements requested any time in the near future if the town rejected Palonen’s offer.

The proposed reconstruction of County BB/Shore Drive from University Ave. at the Marinette City Limits to Pond Road has been sought by town residents for several years. It was proposed for improvements costing $1.5 million a year or two ago, then was redesigned into a $3.5 million project after Palonen became highway commissioner.

That 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. In late summer residents with buildings, fences or plantings inside the 4-rod right of way claimed by the county were notified they would have to remove encroachments. The entire project plan drew a fire storm 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.

Documents were produced contesting the county ‘s right of way claims. Lengthy court battles were predicted before the legal issues could be settled for reconstruction in accord with the county’s plans. Apparently Palonen came up with an alternate plan he believed the Highway Committee would approve. In a letter dated Thursday, Nov. 7, Palonen wrote to Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz:

“Subject: Possible Jurisdictional Transfer of CTH “BB” between University Drive and CTH “B”.

“On behalf of the Marinette County Highway Committee I am writing you to propose a jurisdictional transfer of CTH “BB” between University Drive and CTH “B” to the Town of Peshtigo. The intent to offer a jurisdictional transfer is an attempt to act cooperatively and in conjunction with the township to allow the planned CTH “BB” project between University Dr. and Pond Road to be repaired/constructed to standards that are acceptable to the township and the residents living within the project limits.

“The township and several residents have repeatedly stated the current design of the roadway is unacceptable and did not wish to have ditches constructed, the roadway raised, or right of way encroachments removed. With a jurisdictional transfer, Marinette County would be willing to discuss funding the construction activities in order to meet the desired project scope the Township would like which would not involve ditching, raising the roadway, or removing right of way encroachments if the township so desired.

“In addition, the segment of CTH “BB” from 2.7 miles south of CTH “B” to Pond Road is currently planned for pavement replacement in 2015. If a jurisdictional transfer is acceptable to the township, that segment of roadway could be moved forward into 2014 with Highway Committee approval. By completing this remaining segment, the entire length of CTH “BB” would have a pavement condition rating considered good to excellent by state pavement rating standards,” Palonen wrote.

He continued, “Please consider the offer and respond in writing as to your willingness to negotiate a jurisdictional transfer of CTH “BB” to the Township of Peshtigo. A deadline of December 31, 2013 has been established as a date to have a resolution passed by the township accepting jurisdiction of the roadway upon completion of the project. I am optimistic with regard to the outcome, and feel a jurisdictional transfer will allow the town to better serve the residents of the township and those living along CTH “BB”.

“I look forward to your written response,” Palonen’s letter concluded.

The response drafted by Pottratz and approved by the town board Tuesday night reads: “RE: Shore Drive - Jurisdictional Transfer:

“As chairman of the Town of Peshtigo, it is welcome news that the Marinette County Highway Department is willing to listen to the town residents who voiced their concerns about ditching, culverts, unnecessary widening of the roadway beyond the legal right-of-way, and the general cost of the project. If the road is built to standards as agreed to by the County and citizens of Shore Drive, the savings should be substantial (approximately $2,000,000.00) and can be used for other roads in our County. It will also resolve any costly legal conflicts and encroachment issues. By retaining the roadway, the County will also receive State aids as they have in the past. In my opinion there is no need for a jurisdictional transfer of the roadway.

“Thank you for addressing the concerns of the Town of Peshtigo residents. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns,” the letter concludes.

It was approved by 3 to 1 vote, with Pottratz and Supervisors Denise Wiedemeier and Dan Staudenmaier voting in favor and Supervisor Mark Monnette opposed.

Monnette did not object to the message in the letter, but felt it should go just to Palonen, not to the full County Board. Pottratz disagreed, and said the envelopes in fact were already addressed to all the supervisors.

The meeting attracted a full house, mainly because it was followed by the town’s annual pot luck Christmas Party, although some residents were there strictly for the BB/Shore Drive issue.

The board approved some minor budget changes as recommended by Treasurer Vilas Schroeder (who also chairs County Board), and agreed to pay bills totaling $86,562.21. Schroeder reported a withdrawal taken from a town CD to meet cash flow needs has been replaced, “and everything is where it belongs.”

Pottratz explained town residents in the Marinette School District were upset about increases in their property tax bills this year. He stressed that town taxes had not gone up, and asked Schroeder to explain the increases.

Schroeder said Marinette School District taxes had increased by 10 percent, which added about 46 cents per $1,000 to the tax bill. However, last year there had been a clerical error and the town had levied $81,000 too little for the Marinette School District taxes, and had paid the money out of other town funds. This year they levied an extra 45 cents per $1,000 to make up that shortfall, in addition to the 10 percent increase, for an extra 96 cents per $1,000. Next year the extra 45 cents will not be there,

Peshtigo School District taxes did not go up. Pottratz stressed that town taxes too had not gone up. They stayed at 78 cents per $1,000. “We know how to live within our means,” he declared.

Town Clerk Clarence Coble explained last year he had transposed some numbers, which led to the assessment shortfall. Also though, he noted the Marinette School District has had a big jump in the levy over the last three years on its own. He added that sometimes town assessments also change, which means property owners can get “hit” on their tax bills, even if the tax levies do not go up.

Next on the agenda was public comment. Pazynski noted the County BB issue was an important item coming up later in the meeting. He said there were three important factors to be considered. One, that the Shore Drive residents are a very intelligent and highly motivated group that knows how to get things done. He cited their successful efforts to get an $800,000 state grant to treat phragmites along the shoreline of Green Bay.

Then, he said, there are 350 homes in the greater project area, which equates to about 700 votes in a small area.

Finally, and most important, he cautioned, “If we postpone any decision, the entire project will be postponed at least another year. He said waiting until the elections and reorganization in April would almost certainly delay the project, and urged compromise. He commented “compromise” has been defined as meaning that both sides are unhappy, but said sometimes there must be compromises to get things done.

He felt costs would be minimal if the town accepted the jurisdictional transfer. “We’re already sending a snow plow down Shore Drive to reach the side roads,” he said. “It doesn’t cost much more to put the plow down.”

He said the Shore Drive residents have been waiting several years for the improvements requested, “and a compromise would not be that bad.”

Most of the audience had not seen a copy of Palonen’s letter or the town’s response, but Shore Drive resident Wendell Johnson had. He described it as “an excellent example of lots of words.” He objected to the notion of saving money for other county roads, and wanted the $3.5 million road built and maintained by the county as planned. “This is our shot at a good road that is safe and meets all the requirements,” he declared. “This is the only shot we’ll get for a long, long time.” He said the road as it exists is a narrow, fast and winding road, dangerous even in a car, and doubly dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists.

Johnson and his group are putting together another Century Bike Ride, an event that draws hundreds of participants as visitors to Marinette County.

“I’m surprised the tourism director isn’t here pounding on the table,” he declared. “We want that road, with a bike lane!”

Bob Kowalski, who said he has been living on Shore Drive since 1946, didn’t agree with Johnson. “If this road is built as the county has designed it, God help us!” he declared. He said it would turn into a speed zone in an area where there already is not enough law enforcement.

He said building as planned, with deep ditches and an elevated roadway would be dangerous and unnecessary. “I have yet to see a drop of water on Shore Drive in all my years since 1946,” he declared. He said they should grind the surface, and put down new blacktop. “As to bicycle and walking lanes, If you want sidewalks, stay in the city! This is rural. Let’s keep it rural!”

Paul Lata declared right now the road is dangerous, both for the people walking and riding bicycles, and for the cars that try to avoid hitting them. He said the DOT says the wider shoulders pay for themselves over the years by saving in future maintenance costs.

There was no immediate response from the board, but when the BB/Shore Drive letter came up on the agenda there was more discussion. Pottratz said the county has learned they do not have enough right of way for a 4-rod road. He recounted a brief history, saying two years ago County Administrator Ellen Sorensen said the county could do the job for $1.5 million, and Pottratz said just recently he has spoken with contractors who told him they could still build that 5.8-mile stretch of road, without the ditches and with the 3-foot bicycle/walking shoulders, for $1.5 million rather than the $3.5 million project the county proposes.

He said as to the town taking over the road, they would get $13,000 a year in state aid, and would have to do snow plowing, general maintenance, striping, and eventually rebuild it. He noted the county had offered to give the town the other 6 miles of BB as well. He read the response he planned to send to the county, and repeated the county currently has only three rods of right of way and cannot build the road as planned.

James Goodman declared all the residents have asked that the road not have the proposed ditches and culverts, and asked for reassurance that the road will be built as the residents want.

Pottratz felt it will. He said the town does not want to take over the road, just to have it rebuilt in accord with the wishes of the people who live there.

Monnette did not want the letter sent to all County Supervisors but Pottratz felt it should.

Schroeder advised him the issue will not come to the full County Board in any case. It is an issue that will be decided by the Highway Committee. Pottratz felt if the supervisors do not get the letter they will not know what is going on.

Monnette argued the town’s response should go just to Palonen, “Tell Mr. Palonen thanks but no thanks,” he urged. “Where are we going to get $2 million 30 years from now to rebuild that road?”

To a question from the audience as to whether or not the county would do it as requested if the town rejects their offer, Monnette replied, “That’s up to Mr. Palonen.”

“We don’t want the road,” Pottratz declared.

There was a request from the audience that Palonen’s letter be read, but Pottratz said it would be printed in the paper.

After the meeting, Pazynski expressed dismay that the town board chose not to accept the county’s proposal. “If accepted as proposed the road work would have been completed exactly as its residents wish with minimal cost to the town,” he said. “Unfortunately, I fear this decision could move the project backward with a delay of possibly a year or more.”

On other business, Fire Chief Mike Folgert reported the department responded to five calls last month, most of them to vehicle accidents. One was for a chimney fire, and a call the previous night was for a fire that started with a vehicle in a garage. He urged residents to drive carefully on slippery roads, burn clean wood, and keep chimneys clean. “Take good care of your property so we don’t have to visit you at 3 a.m.,” he urged.

“Slow down, it’s slippery,” Monnette also urged.

By unanimous vote the board approved a resolution donating a highway traffic counter and speed sign to Marinette County Sheriff’s Department. Pottratz said purchase of the unit had been approved by residents at last year’s annual town meeting in hopes the Sheriff’s Department will use it sometimes on Town of Peshtigo roads, but there are no strings attached.

Wiedemeier reported the new recycling center schedule is in the newsletter. They are planning another Spring cleanup day, probably in April. There was a joking request to schedule it earlier if Spring comes with it.

The board approved a long list of potential election inspectors that Coble can call on to work on election days. They are Robert Kowalski, Grace Pennings, Georgetta Preg, Lou Ann Seils, Leonard Wiedemeier, Michael Fifarek, Marcella Malechuk, Cindy Malke, Donald Van Hefty, Roberta Kowalski, Shirley Mans, Vilas Schroeder, Karen Sylvester, Rhonda Mellinger, Linda Rohde, Norman Rohde, Cheri Schroeder, Gerald Pennings, Shirley Brown, Sally Hayes, Arlene Hoard, Mike Hoard, Susan Lindstrom, Karen Sutek, Lois Anderson, Frank Faucett, Chris Faucett, Patty Hassemer, Cyndie Russell, Lynn Seils, Mary Durocher, Jerry Durocher, Pat Roland, Mary Albright, Bill Beattie, Janet Diemer, Ben Duran, Charlotte Duran, Ellen Jung, Marsha Rettke, Catherine Rouse.

The next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.


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