BB Residents Keep Yards, Get 2-Foot Bike/Hike Paths
The long festering dispute over the reconstruction/ resurfacing of 5.72 miles of County BB (Shore Drive) in the Town of Peshtigo appears to be settled. Residents will keep their lawns, trees, fences and the historic Bird Arch that were considered encroachments will not need to be moved, which would have been required if the reconstruction used the 66-foot right of way in the plan favored by a narrow majority of the Marinette County Highway Committee.
There will be a 2-foot paved path along the shoulder for biking and hiking instead of the 3-foot shoulders Supervisor Don Pazynski and many of his constituents had hoped for, but if all goes well the work will be done this year.
After over an hour of wrangling and several roll call votes on Tuesday, April 15, County Board, by 27 to one vote, approved recommendations of the Executive Committee to repave the road basically as the residents requested - at its existing width, without additional ditches or culverts, and with 2-foot paved shoulders added on each side for walking and bicycling.
The Shore Drive/BB project area extends from University Avenue at the Marinette City limits south and west to Pond Road in the Town of Peshtigo.
Total cost, as approved, with the two foot paved shoulders and another foot of gravel, is estimated by Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen at $2,118,921, considerably less than the $3.5 million estimated cost of the plan favored by Palonen and three of the five members of the Highway Committee, but considerably more than the $1.5 million estimated several years ago by former Highway Commissioner Mark Desotell for nearly the same plan as the one approved.
However, Palonen apparently remains convinced the plan approved is not the plan that should be followed, as each of the price estimates for alternate plans that he submitted for County Board consideration at Tuesdays meeting included a notation: Insufficient drainage will cause the pavement to fail prematurely.
The BB issue started back in 2009 or earlier, when a group of residents approached County Board with a request for resurfacing and adding a 5-foot paved path for hiking and bicycling along BB, which is better known as Shore Drive. Efforts to find state or federal funding for the proposed recreational path were unsuccessful and subsequently Desotell drew up the plan with 3-foot paved shoulders. That plan was approved. Construction was to start in 2011 and be completed in 2012. That didnt happen, and the money was diverted to other projects.
After Palonen became Highway Commissioner, he discarded Desotells design as insufficient and had an engineered plan drawn by Robert E. Lee and Associates that called for complete reconstruction, with 66 foot right of way and a raised road bed, ditches, added culverts and a $3.5 million price tag.
That plan was opposed by Peshtigo Town Board and most of the approximately 250 property owners in the construction area. Several contested the countys claim to the 66-foot right of way, and legal actions were in the works. At one point in the controversy a petition with over 100 signatures opposing their approved plan was submitted to the Highway Committee.
Nevertheless, the Highway Committee, by 3 to 2 votes at several meetings in recent months, had decided to proceed with the more ambitious reconstruction, and orders were sent instructing property owners to remove encroachments, which included the Bird Arch, which now is registered in the Wisconsin Historical Societys listing of historical structures.
Subsequently, Supervisor Pazynski appealed to the Executive Committee, and after hearing from him and a number of residents at its meeting on Friday, April 4, the Executive Committee recommended to County Board pulverizing and repaving of County BB, with an option and cost estimate to include 2 feet paved to each side of County BB, no ditching or additional culverts, while completing project this year if possible.
At the Executive Committee meeting, Connie Seefeldt, in one of her last actions as a member of County Board, attempted a motion to repave County BB in the following manner: 1) Retain 3-rod (49.5) right-of-way; 2) No ditches or driveway culverts; 3)Include 3 walking/bike path with base and asphalt; 4) Complete construction in 2014, and 5) Excess funds shall not be allocated toward another road project until County BB is complete.
However, that motion was never voted on, since County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder, with a second from Melissa Christiansen, promptly proposed an amendment to repave the road as it stands, with no additional width, and complete the project this year. That passed, as did follow up amendments which led the motion that finally was approved by County Board on Tuesday, with the 2-foot shoulder option included.
Of the 30-member County Board, Supervisor Shirley Kaufman cast the sole opposing vote. Throughout the controversy she has favored resurfacing the road with 3-foot shoulders as approved in 2011. Supervisor Larry Nichols, who had been present for most of the meeting, was absent when vote was called, and the District 19 (City of Peshtigo) seat formerly held by the late Supervisor Mel Sharpe will remain vacant until next month when Board Chair Schroeder is expected to name a replacement. All other board members were present.
The BB issue was only part of a long days agenda for County Board that started at 9 a.m. with swearing in of the board for two year terms, election of officers and reorganization and ended after 3 p.m. The regular monthly business portion of the meeting, which started at 10:30 a.m., included a long discussion on some changes to corporate documents of Bay Area Medical Center that were ultimately tabled until next month, along with several less controversial matters.
Most of the BB residents stayed for almost the entire meeting, leaving only after the vote that gave them most of what they have been asking for.
During public comment at the start of the regular meeting, Pazynski advised the board he would attempt to amend the motion that had come out of Executive Committee. The amended motion I am making today really brings this project full circle to its beginning, he declared. Construction was begun in 2011 to do exactly what our amended motion requests - no ditches - no culverts - do include a walking path. It also is the same design offered by the Highway Committee five months ago to the Town of Peshtigo, he said, and declared, For the committee to now say it is physically impossible to do the same design does not make sense. He said the very same design concept was implemented by the City of Marinette on Bay Shore Street which runs along the shores of Green Bay behind the hospital and in front of the University. He said the road surface as it exists now has lasted for 47 years, and wondered how they could now say a new surface with more base and more asphalt would not last as long. He and many BB residents have consistently contended the drainage capacity of the bay sand along the entire stretch of BB eliminates the need for additional ditches and culverts.
Why were the people treated so indifferently - Why was the project suspended - Why was it replaced with an over engineered and wasteful substitute with no concern for the community? Why is it that only three people from a committee of five - not even a unanimous decision - can disregard the wishes of the people? he demanded. The people are not asking us to spent more money. Rather, they are asking us to save money, and in so doing to help improve the quality of life in Marinette County without diminishing the quality of the project!...You have an opportunity today to demonstrate fairness and fiscal responsibility on behalf of all the citizens of Marinette County, he told the board.
Pazynski said he had asked several BB residents to repeat what they had told the Executive Committee for the entire board.
He presented a breakdown of savings totaling $1,653,750 that had been taken from officially estimated costs, including $575,000 to be saved from not having to again move gas and electric lines that had already been moved once to accommodate the 2011/2012 plans, and a $237,000 savings in landscaping costs, since less of that would be needed if there is no clear cutting and bulldozing on the right of way as would be required in the 66-foot plan.
Shore Drive resident Laurie Davidson said she was speaking on behalf of herself, friends and neighbors. She first wanted to disabuse supervisors of the idea that opposition to the Highway Committees plan was only from a vocal minority of Shore Drive residents. She said she knew of only one- Wendell Johnson - who favored that, and reminded the board of the petition with 100 signers opposed, and the hundreds of people at meetings on the reconstruction, with almost universal support for the plan Pazynski and the town board prefer.
People on Shore Drive have values, she declared. We chose to live in the country. We do not want a super highway in front of our homes. We value the wooded, rustic nature of Shore Drive.
Davidson, who serves on the board of curators of the State Historical Society, told the board that parts of BB/Shore Drive were parts of an old Indian mail trail, along which runners daily delivered mail between Green Bay and Marinette/Menominee and Peshtigo.
We also value the opportunity to walk and bicycle, Davidson said, and we certainly want to save the county $2 million. She thanked the Executive Committee for listening to concerns of residents and repeated the contention that there is no water in the existing ditches.
Next to speak was Kenneth Exworthy, who referred to sneering comments that the people from Shore Drive all think they are engineers, and declared, I am an engineer! He has degrees from MIT and Michigan Tech, and taught university engineering for over 20 years. However, he said, what makes him an expert on BB are his feet - he has walked over 1,000 miles along that road in the past three years, and repeated there is never a problem with standing water except perhaps in spring if the snow was not plowed back enough and the culverts that do exist are blocked. He commended the Highway Department for doing a good job of plowing this year. He said Shore Drive is a unique road that requires a unique solution. It acts more like a city street than a country road, and should have a 40 miles per hour speed limit. Driveways to the 250 residences take up more than a mile of frontage, in addition to the 12 road entrances, Exworthy said.
He said the utilities were already moved to accommodate the 2011 plan, the driveways are cut in, and culverts where needed are in place, That road is ready to proceed with the original plans.
Wayne Gerondale, another engineer, had been prepared to speak but said Exworthy had already covered most of what he would have to say.
Schroeder read an e-mail from Nancy Motkowski asking the board to look at the good of Marinette County and bring Shore Drive into the 21st Century. She said she strongly supports resurfacing the road, with the bike/hike path.
Wendell Johnson, the Shore Drive resident who had previously been identified as in support of the Highway Department plan, declared, I am not crusading for ditches and culverts, but we have to look at the best advertise and expertise, not a large number of loud voices. He said four years ago, in this very room, they had talked about a 3-foot path for hiking and biking, as a compromise for the 5-foot paths for which they couldnt get funding. Now, he said, were hearing about maybe a 2-foot path for walking and biking. He mentioned a lady who last year said she wouldnt fit on a 2-foot path, and she was only partly joking.
He expressed surprise that the countys tourism director has not weighed in on the bike/hike path issue, since the Century Ride along that unsafe BB route attracts hundreds of visitors to the area each year. He said residents need the opportunity for healthy exercise, but BB is a busy highway, with lots of traffic, some 1,900 vehicles a day, including trucks, etc., that dont all go 40 miles per hour or less. He said whatever else the road needs, it needs better law enforcement. He advised anyone who walks or bicycles on that road to be extremely cautious, particularly on the curves. Dont go the cheap route, he urged the board. He said many residents on BB favor the original plan, but they are intimidated by the angry voices, and urged, Please do not agree to a watered down plan that does not meet the needs of Marinette County!
When the BB issue came up for action later on the boards agenda, Pazynski offered a set of amendments to the Executive Committees recommendation: to repave County BB in the following manner: 1) Retain 3-rod (49.5) right-of-way; 2) No ditches or driveway culverts; 3) Include 3 walking/bike path with base and asphalt; 4) Complete construction in 2014, and 5) Excess funds shall not be allocated toward another road project until County BB is complete. He discussed the cost information he had compiled, and said the savings equal 31 percent of what the countys estimated road costs will be in 2015.
Supervisor Robert Holley, who serves on the Land and Water Information Committee, expressed concern about the additional paved shoulders because the state is pushing us for less and less impervious surfaces.
Nichols wondered how much of the projected savings was from culverts that are already under the road, but Pazynski said none. The extra money is for culvert extensions if the road is widened.
Supervisor Russ Bauer reminded the board that two years ago the county was going to do the BB job just as Pazynski proposed. Bauer is a member of the Highway Committee, and has consistently supported the plan Pazynski proposed.
Schroeder said this is the first time in 34 years that the County can make an improvement on BB, and we need to bear in mind the wishes of the citizens. He said walking paths are needed and it makes sense to maximize county finances by doing the road surface and the walking/bicycle paths at the same time
In answer to questions, Palonen said the culverts under the road were replaced in 2011, the culvert amounts in his cost estimates are for extending them to meet the Robert E. Lee design specifications.
Bauer said the culverts will not need to be extended for the two additional feet on each side of the road, provided the driving lanes stay at 11 feet.
Palonen said it is standard for county highways to have 11-foot driving lanes, and only the 2 feet of paved shoulders would be added if County Board approves that option. He said it can be done within the 49.5 foot existing right of way.
It is time to decide this in the best interests of the county and the BB residents, declared Supervisor Ted Sauve. The BB residents have waited far too long!
Supervisor Al Sauld asked if options for shoulder pavement widths could be added to the bid documents, but was told that is not the intent.
Holley objected to the proposed requirement that money originally allocated for BB not be spent on any other project until BB is completed. Pazynski eventually agreed to eliminate that provided the job is done this year. He referred to times in the past when the work was promised and then the money was used elsewhere.
Sauve attempted to call for the question, but discussion continued. Schroeder said a call for the question should not be used to cut off debate.
Palonen confirmed that $1.3 million of the $3.5 million originally allocated for BB this year has already been moved to a repaving of County E.
Bauer reminded them the original BB plan was estimated at $1.5 million, and even though the $1.3 million has been taken, enough remains to do the job they want, This is just saying leave the rest of the money there so it doesnt get robbed again.
Pazynski felt they should give the Co. E allocation back as well, until the BB work is done. Schroeder, who chairs the Finance Committee as well as County Board, assured him if they run out of funding for BB before it is completed, it will be at the Finance Committee and back to this board. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison ruled on a number of motions and attempted motions.
Supervisor Sauld said he is a dedicated bicycle rider, and feels a 2-foot shoulder on each side should be plenty. He said Florence County has an 8-inch paved shoulder, and you think you died and went to Heaven after bicycling on a road with no paved shoulder.
He was in favor of the 2-foot paving, and felt that will attract tourists. He added a 5-foot shoulder certainly would be nice, and would extend the life of the road surface, but would cost a lot, so lets compromise and go with the 2-foot shoulders.
New supervisor Don Phillips was assured that adding the 2 feet of pavement to each side will not disrupt lawns, trees, buildings, etc. Palonen said all the work will be done within the existing county right of way.
Another newly seated supervisor David Zahn wanted a provision that the project include a 4-inch aggregate base under the paved bicycle path, and was told that it is there, and there will be a foot of gravel shoulder after the pavement.
Vote on Pazynskis motion failed, 14 to 15, a narrow one-vote margin. Those in favor were supervisors Pazynski, C.J. Barrette, Russ Bauer, Mike Behnke, Ken Casper, Gilbert Engel, Paul Gustafson, Kathy Just, Shirley Kaufman, Tom Mailand, Al Mans, Don Phillips, Vilas Schroeder, and Cheryl Wruk.
Those opposed were supervisors Joe Banaszak, Alice Baumgarten, Russ Bousley, Mike Cassidy, Melissa Christiansen, Robert Holley, Ken Keller, Nick Lakari, Ken Mattison, Larry Nichols, Joe Policello, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve, Clancy Whiting and David Zahn.
An attempt to amend the Executive Committees recommendation but with a 3-foot shoulder instead of the 2-foot option also failed, with 13 in favor and 15 opposed. Voting in favor were Bauer, Behnke, Casper, Engel, Gustafson, Just, Kaufman, Keller, Mattison, Pazynski, Sauve, Schroeder, and Wruk. Policello abstained.
After a bit more maneuvering, the original motion with the 2-foot option and addition of Schroeders recommendation for a construction supervisor passed 27 to one, with Kaufman opposed and Nichols out of the room.
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