Town of Stephenson Discusses Plowing Private Road IssueIssue Date: July 11, 2019
The Town of Stephenson Road Committee met July third at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the boards decision to no longer plow private roads.
Chairman Mike Kudick explained that he had been contacted by a private plow company that had asked if he was aware the town could not plow private roads.
The Town of Stephenson receives no State aid for private roads, the town's plow trucks are larger while private roads tend to be smaller. The board noted that there is not enough town man power, and there is a "non-compete" clause in the State Statutes. The board assured the public in attendance that this was done legally, with all the meetings posted and not done maliciously.
Many persons who live on the private roads asked questions of the Committee and gave their concerns.
John Wegner, a concerned member of the community, who lives on a private road, said "Its been pointed out to me that all residents had access to the town agenda, its true plowing was on the agenda but had I known I would have been at the meeting. A stronger effort should have been made to reach the affected members of the town, " said Wegner. "I don't see a positive result from this discussion, perhaps you would be more understanding of our situation if you were in our shoes, and it looks like it might have to be snow shoes. I am most concerned with the safety and well being of the residents affected by this decision. My friends neighbors and family. If any one should, God forbid, need an ambulance there is a chance, however slight it may be, that an emergency could become life threatening if an ambulance where to get stuck on an unplowed road somewhere."
The concern was voiced by more than just Wegner. Residents were worried that they would not get their road plowed to get to medical appointments or to receive medications that come by mail or delivery services. Most were very concerned with emergency services which may not be able to reach them in a timely manner.
Wegner also said, "Same with the need of a fire turck or law enforcement, I hate to see something terrible happen to someone because of an unplowed road. Given the remoteness of where we live, many of residents rely on our delivery services for our health related items. I know a person who receives his oxygen by mail, what would happen if he could not get his oxygen delivered. What if some poor soul has no heat during the winter and no heating company could get to them." "We are also going to be suffering a huge plowing cost increase. I have talked to a few plowing contractors and this hit is going to come at a time of the year when peoples' incomes are already stretched.. The deal we had here was a great deal. We received the highest quality of service from the towns plowing service."
The issue of plow truck and private road size was discussed with those in attendance suggesting that Town could perhaps purchase a smaller truck so they could get into some of the small private roads.
The audience asked, if there was some way to adjust the costs for doing the private roads so the Town could cover their costs. They stated that some of the places on private roads would have to be closed for the winter months and that will affect local businesses. They asked if there isn't some way to work through this so everyone is taken care of. Speakers asked if any of the Committee members would change their vote if they lived on a private road. They also commented that the quality of service they received from the Town in the past has been wonderful.
"Plowing of private roads needs to be continued for the common good of your constituancey,:" said Wegner. "And you must realize that your actions on this matter will act as a barometer as to how much your actions will reflect on the people you are supposedly representing."
Chairman Kudick stated that the reason they have been discussing not plowing is because he was approached by someone who asked him if he knew about the "non-compete" State Statute. Kudick stated that he was not aware at that point, but once he was, he informed the Board and they began looking into the matter. After examination, it became apparent to the board that the private contractor had been correct about the non-compete statute, which if the board continued to violate could lead the Town into a lawsuit over the matter.
Supervisor Kevin Solway spoke up and delivered some information about the law to which they have been referring. Though the exact year that the Statute was put in place was around 1975.
In 1978 the Attorney General gave his opinion on the Statute, which is SS86.105. In 2014, the League of Municipalities stated that there are 3 criteria that a Town must meet to be in compliance with that Statute, if they are plowing private roads. They are: 1 " the plowing must be necessary for ingress and egress to property, 2 " there must be a specific fee schedule in place and the fees must be prepaid, and 3 " there must be no other private persons capable of plowing the private road.
Those in attendance asked that what would happen if there was no contractor to plow their road, to which a board member responded that they had spoken to a private contractor that is willing to plow the private roads in the Town of Stephenson.
Solway said his opinion is that the Town would plow a private road if they were shown something in writing that there were no private contractors that would do it.
The Town charges $600.00 per mile to plow private roads. The Town is not allowed to make money or lose money when plowing private roads but the town cannot violate State law.
"I, personally, am a "do things legally" person, Solway stated. We, as a Board, should not be doing things that could get the Town in a law suit. We need to be responsible in carrying out the duties we were elected for. Once the Chairman was made aware of the Statute, we had to abide by it to the best of our ability."
Kudick stated that person that contacted him about the Statute did not threaten a law suit he just asked if the Town was aware of the Statute.
Solway said his opinion is, that the Town would plow if they were shown something in writing that there were no private contractors that would do it. This is not something the Board did without thinking it over. The Board doesn't want to put any burden on the persons living on private roads. Most of the neighboring communities have stopped plowing private roads. We are almost the last ones to do it.
"I wanted to try to convince myself that this is the result of an overreaction of one person talking to another over a beer, saying oh hey Mike did you ever know or did you ever think about, versus someone coming to you in a formal capacity. Is this a knee jerk reaction, or are we shooting butterflies with rifles here,:" stated Harold Baker. Is it an option to go back to the towns attorney and ask him for his opinion. Could you please review the statue and get his opinion and his understanding and maybe having a meeting with him here."
Kudick stated he would speak with the attorney at the Town meeting on July 10th and have an opinion for the public at the Committee meeting on August 7th.
The meeting ended with the Committee suggesting to the private road people to try to get a contractor that would do several roads and maybe that would bring the cost down for all of them. Solway thanked everyone for coming and expressing their thoughts.
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