Resolving County BB situation
Peshtigo town officials will negotiate with highway leader
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 6:00 PM
PESHTIGO - The Highway Committee of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Wednesday that supporters of it hope will help resolve the heated controversy over the proposed County Trunk BB project in the Town of Peshtigo.
The resolution, adopted by a 3-2 vote, authorized Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen to propose a jurisdictional transfer of County Trunk BB between University Drive and County Trunk B to the town to allow the portion between University Drive and Pond Road to be repaired to standards mutually agreeable to the town and county.
The transfer is contingent on the town board passing a resolution prior to Dec. 31, accepting jurisdiction upon completion of the project, according to the wording of the resolution.
The proposed $3.5 million project calls for the widening of what is also called Shore Drive from University Drive to Pond Road for a walking and bicycle path and the addition of culverts and ditches.
Three town residents pleaded with the county board on Oct. 29 to reduce the project by $2 million by just including the repaving. The controversy really heated up when Palonen sent letters to 99 County Trunk BB property owners notifying them that they have encroachments that will have to be moved.
The resolution was supported by supervisors Russ Bousley, committee chairman; Joe Policello and Mel Sharpe and opposed by supervisors Shirley Kaufman and Russ Walker.
"If they (town residents) don't want it what do we do?" Bousley said after the meeting, in explaining the reasons for the resolution. "This has just been going back and forth.
"It doesn't do any good to get nastier and nastier as it goes along. We're not accomplishing anything."
Bousley and County Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said the next step in the process is for Palonen to negotiate with Town of Peshtigo Board Chairman Herman Pottratz.
"Ray and Herman and whoever else they want to take along with them will sit down and negotiate," Bousley explained. "Really the ball is in the Town of Peshtigo's court right now."
The committee voted on the resolution after being addressed by Pottratz and two other town residents - Laurie Davidson and Jim Kollross - during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Before those three spoke, Bousley warned them to "keep it civil, if not I am going to tell you to sit down."
Pottratz questioned why he hadn't been notified about the resolution, saying he read about it in a newspaper Tuesday and should have been invited to Wednesday's meeting.
"I wasn't aware of anything," he said. "It would be a good thing to do to invite us."
Davidson claimed she only knows of one resident on the route of the proposed project, that favors the current plans.
"They don't want to sacrifice the rustic road (designation)," she said. "They don't want the ditches and culverts, culverts by driveways are wintertime nightmares."
She noted one of the encroachments if the road is widened would be the "Harbor Arch."
"It is a precious artifact," Davidson said. "People look for it. I think the current owners of that property are planning legal action to preserve it."
Kollross said there appears to be discrepancies in the legal descriptions of some properties and that "people have made attempts to give their positions, but they have been ignored."
Kaufman questioned why she didn't receive the agenda of the meeting earlier, claiming she didn't get it until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"I can explain that," Bousley said. "We usually get it (the meeting notice) out earlier but Mr. Palonen was sick Friday."
"It wasn't done by design. He was ill and just couldn't get it out."
Kaufman also questioned why Pottratz and other town board members weren't informed about the resolution and invited to the meeting.
"When I talked to Herman last night, I read this to him and I asked him if he had knowledge of this," she said. "He is the town chairman and he and other town board members should know about this beforehand.
"If I was the town chairman or on the town board and this was in there and I didn't know about this, I would be very upset. I think it would have been common courtesy to have contacted them prior to this meeting."
Bousley and Mattison differed with Kaufman.
"He'll (Pottratz) know about it (the resolution) when we pass it," Bousley said. "We've been contacting these people now for many years (about this project)."
"The motion in front of this group today is to authorize the highway commissioner to propose this to the Town of Peshtigo," Mattison explained. "It would be inappropriate to discuss it outside of the committee meeting or to make an offer and discuss it with Mr. Pottratz prior to this committee authorizing that action by the highway commissioner.
"It's an authorization to direct the highway commissioner to propose a jurisdictional transfer. That's when you would talk to them. You would not talk to someone before there's authorization to do that. That would be inappropriate. The commissioner now will start negotiations."