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Family Seeks Reopening Of Cottage Lane Bridge

Issue Date: September 6, 2018

A decision made by Wagner Town Board more than a year ago to close the culvert bridge on Cottage Lane rather than repair or replace it has been an item of contention at several Wagner Town Board meetings over the past year. The issue brought some hot debate again at the board's regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22, but again no action was taken. Based on comments at the meeting, the issue may be headed for settlement in court.

Present for the 6:30 meeting were Town Chair Kurt Konell, supervisors Mollie Arthur and Ed Delfosse, Animal Control Officer Jerry Micksch, Fire Chief Thomas Arthur, Treasurer Linda Larochelle, Clerk Linda Wilke and 24 members of the public.

During time for comments from the public near the start of the meeting, Bill Everson, a property owner on Cottage Lane asked for information on the bridge closure. He said his father, brother, sister and other family members all own land on that road, some on one side of the creek and some on the other. They and some neighbors object to having the bridge remain closed. Since the bridge is out they need to make a four and a half mile drive to the main road and back in again to visit one another. "I want it known that we are in opposition to closing that bridge," Everson declared.

"If it's not safe to drive a 4-wheel drive pickup over, it's not safe to keep open, no matter how good the culverts are," Konell told him. "Every time it rains it washes out!"

"My family lives on that road, and we need that bridge," Everson responded.

"It's not safe. Period!" Konell declared, indicating that was the end of the discussion.

"Then fix it!" Everson shot back.

"With what?" Konell responded, adding it would cost the town $400,000 to $700,000 to fix it.

"I am also an attorney, and we will sue!" Everson said.

Konell angrily told him to go ahead, and he would see them in court.

Former Town Chair Lynn Hickey, speaking from the audience, said the Cottage Lane Bridge problems started five years ago, when high water caused some large stones to wash out. The roadbed beneath became soggy. They got estimates from the county she said, but the main issue is that Bill Wickman, who actually owns part of the property the culvert bridge and its approaches are built on, would prefer that it not be there.

She said because the existing crossing is not built on land the town actually owns, the town would needed to widen, lengthen and relocate the bridge, and cost estimates had been between $400,000 and $700,000. "Because of our population we can't get that much bridge aid," she added.

Everson said there is no need to change the bridge location, and said under Wisconsin law, "If you're a municipality and you've used that road for 30 years, it's already yours"You're making this a lot more difficult than it really is". You take our taxes"You fix that road!" He said he would not take Hickey's word for the cost of repairing or replacing the bridge, and wanted to see some cost studies. He also wanted to see some studies on emergency services response times with and without the bridge.

There was brief talk of TRIP and LRIP funding, which could pay 50 to 80 percent of bridge replacement or repair costs. Hickey told him replacing the bridge would cost more than the entire town budget for a year. When questioned by Hickey, Larochelle said the total town budget for this year was $218,658.21.

The Cottage Lane bridge replacement was on the agenda later in the meeting for discussion and possible action, but when it came up Konell said they had already been all through that. There was no discussion at that time, no motions made or votes taken, and no input from either of the supervisors on that issue. A bit of a shouting match began between Everson and Konell, and someone from the audience told Konell not to "make a fool of yourself again," to which Konell replied, "It's my privilege to make a fool of myself if I want to." But the dispute ended.

A bit later David Brissette, who identified himself as a resident of Cottage Lane, said years ago during a winter of heavy snow the plows knocked down two speed limit signs on bad curves and they were never replaced. He said it is a gravel road barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, "but the school bus, Federal Express and UPS drivers apparently think the speed limit is 55 mph. He said the speed limit there was 25, and he would very much like to see the signs go up again.

He said without signs the seed limit is automatically 55 mph. but Konell said on town roads without signs the speed limit is 45 mph.

Lynn Hickey said the signs were never out back up because the town board action reducing the speed limit to 25 mph had never been put in the minutes. Several people felt to legally reduce the speed limit below the 45 mph they would need permission from the county.

Another individual in the audience said Cottage Lane is now a dead end road, and full of curves, and suggested the residents should petition for a reduced speed limit.

There were suggestions to have the Cottage Lane speed limit on the agenda for the town board's next meeting but no action was taken.

Discussion and possible action on Peterson Road was also on the agenda and Konell said the town road employees feel there is nothing wrong with the culverts. They can take off a fraction of the surface, regrade, level it off and repave the area without replacing the culverts. Steve Renikow, Jr. is to level it off.

Discussion indicated culverts on County Lane and Old Rail Road may need to be replaced, but there was no action scheduled and none was taken.

The agenda included consideration of raising the speed limit on Peterson Road to 45 miles per hour, but after a bit of discussion on safety issues, board's unanimous vote was to leave it at 25 mph. Signs apparently will be appropriately posted to make the speed limit enforceable.

The meeting agenda called for the board to discuss and consider opening roads to ATV usage. Wilke understands because of some legal issues they must revoke the ordinance that was passed on Nov. 24, 2014. To again allow ATVs on town roads she believes they will need a whole new ordinance, but to be sure of how to do that she needs legal advice. "I will check with the attorney and get his answer in writing, as the annual meeting directed," Wilke said.

During time for public input Mike Caylor, on behalf of the Sportsman's Club, thanked the board for use of town hall for Hunter Safety classes. He said 10 young hunters passed the class and gained certification. Classes were held on two Thursday evenings and one Saturday.

He noted the town is changing its ATV regulations and offered the club's services to help take down the old "No ATV" signs and put up new ones when the time comes, which would be after a new ordinance is in place.

Fire Chief Arthur said the department had three calls in the past month, and a total of 195 man hours. One call was for a lift assist, one to assist with a fire in Wausaukee, and one for a vehicle accident.

Early in the meeting Konell had asked him what the department wants to do with the old tanker. Arthur explained it already belongs with the town, and said the town board should decide. He said problems with Tender Two have been temporarily fixed by welding a 5 or 6 inch crack so it holds water again, and they found a replacement radiator, "but these are band aids." He said they are looking for a replacement but haven't found it yet.

As to the old tanker No. 2, Arthur said parts for it are no longer available and it is unsafe to drive on the road. The board agreed to take his advice and look into scrapping it.

The public works employees reported they have been running the dump and doing road patching. It was stated that the cameras are gone from the dump, which led to a discussion on who had taken them. Lynn Hickey said Jim Hickey had left them, and had no idea where they had gone.

A lady in the audience pointed out the town must have insurance and said if the cameras were stolen they need to file a police report so they can file an insurance claim. Several people said the camera boxes have been empty for some months.

There had been complaints at the last meeting that people were stealing metal and other salable goods from the recycling Center.

Wilke noted she had just received two checks for items the workers had brought to the Iron Works salvage yard.

A Fire Department spokesman said they have four cameras for their parking lot area and asked for permission to install them. He said gas has been missing. Konell told him to order the signs, posts and brackets.

Animal Control Officer Micksch said he will not be attending the animal control course in Madison. He had handled two calls involving animal complaints. One dog took off and the owner called for help finding him, but the dog came back on its own. Then he had been called by Supervisor Mollie Arthur to investigate a complaint she had received about a dog possibly being abused. He said the owner had taken the animal to a vet. "That dog is 13 years old and not doing well, and that's why it looks like it does," Micksch said.

There was a complaint from someone in the audience about the town paying the $35 per hour for an animal control call, and felt the owner of the animal should pay that, not the town taxpayers. Later Micksch said he had more calls than usual this year, but last year his total pay cost the equivalent of 25 cents from each town resident. He also said town residents are supposed to buy $3 licenses for their dogs. If he finds a dog wearing its license tag he returns it to the owner. He said he often helps owners locate their missing pets. If he finds an unlicensed lost dog he brings it to the animal shelter in Menominee and it costs the owner $70 to get it back.

There was a bit of discussion about surveillance cameras that appear to be missing from the town's dump/recycling center site, and that issue will be on the agenda for the next board meeting, which is to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Wilke reported Country Visions has locked in a lower price quote for propane than they first offered.

Wilke also reported Unger & Walters will do the town audit and now she is waiting for a date.

The board had slated discussion and action on where to store equipment and park town vehicles. On this subject Lynn Hickey told the board, "Jim (Hickey) told you there's no rush (to move them)"he knows the situation and you know the situation yourself." There was no further discussion and no action.

Also listed was discussion and consideration of hiring a municipality lawyer. "I don't think we need one," Konell said, and again there was no discussion and no action before moving on to the next agenda item.

Vouchers were approved for payment. The next monthly board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12. Future agenda items include the missing cameras at the dump, audit date, placing an order for speed limit signs on Cottage Lane that used to mark curves, and placing an order for ATV signs.


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