MARINETTE — The parking situation in close proximity to the Marinette County Courthouse has been a problem for a long time and some fear it could get worse when the renovation of the former Law Enforcement Center (LEC) on Ella Court Street is completed next year. County Administrator John Lefebvre presented two options to the county board’s Infrastructure Committee Wednesday that he says could add 35 parking spaces near the courthouse.

The first option he presented is to create 22 parking spaces on property the county owns across Hall Avenue between NEWCAP and Macco’s Floor Coverings. His second proposal he says could create 13 more spaces is to ask the City of Marinette to vacate the section of Ella Court Street adjacent to the former LEC. 

“We’ve acquired the vacant lot across the street adjacent to the Macco’s building and NEWCAP,” Lefebvre said. “The intent is to convert that to parking, if possible, yet this year.”

He said in order to get the most parking out of that lot “we would like to hard surface the entire lot and not leave any green space.” He said the city has a requirement that some green space be left.

“So we can go to the city council and make a pitch for that,” Lefebvre said. “The pitch that I am looking at to make that plan viable is that we would do something a little bit different. We would not pave it with asphalt or concrete, we would use what is called permeable paver. We would actually make it look more like an oldtime parking lot with paver blocks. The permeable pavement would allow the water to penetrate and and go directly into the ground.”

Permeable pavement is a porous surface which catches precipitation and surface runoff, storing it in the reservoir while slowly allowing it to infiltrate into the soil below. 

He said the county could “dress up the parking lot with planting boxes or large planters and quite possibly put a bench out adjacent to the sidewalk.

“It’ll (the paving blocks) allow the infiltration of water into the ground and reduce the amount that is going into the storm sewer,” Lefebvre explained. “It’ll make the neighborhood look better. Those blocks don’t put out the same type of heat that a blacktop parking lot would.”

He said to make his second option to increase parking viable “my suggestion would be that we make a pitch to the city to actually vacate that portion of Ella Court Street that runs adjacent to the building.”

Currently the county has diagonal parking on the side of Ella Court Street across from the former LEC and a nearby parking lot adjacent to the Mariner Theatre. It also has a parking lot by Krist Oil.

“I think there’s probably 13 additional parking spaces that we would acquire on Ella Court,” Lefebvre said. “I want to create additional parking, but I also want to allow us to have safe egress and ingress out of the building so people don’t have to walk across a public street to get into one of our county buildings. People are used to driving in and out (of that area of Ella Court Street) so we need to make it look like a parking lot.”

He said he envisions raising the level of the section of Ella Court Street up slightly to the level of the nearby parking lot.

“We once again could use permeable pavers for that area,” Lefebvre explained. “If we just pave it is going to look like a continuation of the street, the pavers give it that feeling that it’s not a street.”

He said it’s crucial for the county to give the city something as an incentive to vacate the street. 

“We need to sell the city on something that we can do for the community,” Lefebvre explained.  

He said the incentive to get the the city to vacate the street could be to provide green space on top of the two-story former LEC for use by the community and county employees.

Lefebvre said the green roof would not add heat to the community like a black roof would and it would slow the flow of water into the storm sewer.

“I truly believe we need more parking,” Lefebvre said. “The increased parking will help from a safety standpoint, I don’t think anybody will disagree with that. We’re looking to make things better for the community and Marinette County. This is going to take some action from the county board as well as the city council. It’s not going to happen overnight. No action is needed today, I just wanted to give you my vision on parking.”

Later at Wednesday’s meeting, the committee discussed, without taking a vote, whether to incorporate a green roof into the the plans to renovate the former LEC. 

Lefebvre cautioned the committee about the additional costs to install the green roof, but also noted its many benefits, including improvement in air quality, mitigation of heat and storm water runoff and improvement in the quality of the runoff.

“The key benefit of the rooftop will be usable space for employees,” he said. “That is the key benefit. You have 24,000 square feet on the roof top that can be used for space. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s a healthier environment for the staff and community.”

Lefebvre said to make the green roof a reality, the elevator in the building needs to be replaced and the shaft has to be extended to the roof with an enclosed area surrounding it on the roof and at least one staircase, and probably two, needs to be extended to the roof.

“We want multiple access points the roof,” he said. “There’s also the possibility of the installation of lighting.”

Lefebvre said sometime in the “very near future” the committee will be asked to make a decision on whether it wants a green roof on the former LEC.

He said a decision needs to be made before the current roof is replaced, warning that if the correct membrane is not installed, the option for the green roof will no longer be available.

The county board at its meeting on June 25 accepted a bid from Venture Architects of Milwaukee to do the engineering, architectural and construction oversight services for the project at a cost of $279,942, with Immel Construction and Hardwood Engineering to be the subcontractors.

Lefebvre said the county has a draft contract from Venture Architects that is being reviewed by Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.

“We have a kickoff meeting scheduled for next Wednesday between the engineers, Marty (Keyport, facilities director) and myself,” he said. “At that we’ll talk about how to move forward.” 

Lefebvre said, hopefully at the Infrastructure Committee in August, he’ll have a project schedule to present.

“Marty and I are very excited with the concept that we would try to start or complete the roof (replacement) yet this fall and also the demolition with the idea that we would then get into the internal stuff this winter,” he said. “Unless something steps in the way, that is how we’re going to move forward.”