Minocqua’s town board went on record Tuesday night in favor of the concept for the construction of an intersection and the installation of a traffic light at the south entrance of the Save More Marketplace on U.S. Highway 51.
The vote was 4-1 in favor the concept with only Supervisor Billy Fried voting against the proposal.
Jim Gauden of Save More and Jim Brickner of JSD Engineering outlined to town supervisors why the company is requesting the stop light and why they were seeking the town’s approval.
“When the Highway 51 construction is completed the DOT (Wis. Dept of Transportation) will not allow a direct entrance off the highway to the building that is currently being leased by Verizon,” Gauden explained. “We had to come up with a plan that would still provide better access for the Verizon building than from the opposite side of our parking lot.”
Gauden and Brickner said they have had discussions with the DOT about the proposal, but before they can go into detail with state officials about the intersection and stop light proposal they must have the town agree to at least the concept for now.
The preliminary concept drawing discussed by Gauden and Brickner calls for a stop light be installed at a new intersection constructed at the south entrance to the Save More parking lot nearest the Verizon building. At that location there will be a single entrance lane, but two other lanes that would allow for left and right turns onto Highway 51.
The intersection would be constructed far enough into the Save More parking lot to allow for a backup of traffic waiting for the light to turn green. The plan would also allow more direct access to the Verizon building which would be adjacent to the new intersection. If the intersection is constructed as proposed, Gauden said Save More would lose about 35 parking spaces.
The plan also calls for Save More’s current northern driveway to remain and allow both entry and right turns only onto Highway 51.
Minocqua Public Works Director Butch Welch said the town faced the same kind of situation when Wal-Mart was constructed in the town.
“It’s similar to what we did at South Ridge and North Ridge,” Welch said. “They built it to DOT standards before the town accepted it.”
Supervisor Sue Heil expressed some surprise at Save More’s proposal because she said the DOT had “shown no interest previously in the same proposal which did not include a stop light” discussed not so long ago.
“The including of a stop light in the project might be the reason they are listening more this time,” Gauden said.
“I think we can agree to the concept of the proposal with the understanding the town will pay none of the expense for the light, the construction or the new traffic study that is almost certain will be needed,” Hartzheim said. “If we [the town] were to agree to pay for this it would set a bad precedent by paying for a project that serves private property, not the public.”
Supervisors also said the new intersection would be a town road, but Save More would be responsible for keeping the road clear of snow and ice in the winter.
All of those involved in Tuesday’s discussion agreed Save More’s request could not be included in the Highway 51 project which is slated to begin in the spring unless the project was delayed.
“And I’m afraid that if the project were to be delayed we might not see the project done at all,” Hartzheim said.
First phase to start in spring
Hartzheim said it was virtually impossible to include the construction of the proposed intersection in the highway construction project which is set to begin this spring.
“The first phase is scheduled to begin in either April or May depending on the weather,” Hartzheim said. “The first phase will extend from the stop lights in the downtown to around where River Valley Bank is located.”
“I believe what Save More realistically is seeking is that if it is at all possible, the DOT incorporate some kind of accommodations in the spring construction that would help in the later possible construction of the new intersection.”
Fried’s no vote
Fried said after Tuesday’s meeting that he voted against the proposal not because he was against the idea, but felt attaching so many requirements in the motion was not the way to proceed.
“If you feel it’s the right thing to do then just say it,” Fried said. “It’s still going to cost the town money because they will have to redo the intersection after the original construction project is finished. We should do it right the first time. Do it all together at once.”
The town board discussed several other agenda items:
• They briefly discussed proposed changes in a lease agreement with SonicNet for use of the town’s towers for providing broadband Internet service. They took no action Tuesday night, but decided to review the proposed pact at its next meeting after they received a copy that included all of the recommended changes.
• Conducted the first reading of a proposed amended town ordinance which designates snowmobile routes within the town. The amended ordinance would include the addition of Deer Lake Trail from Squirrel Lake Road to Arnold Stock Road to the list. Town officials said the adding of that area to the town’s designated trail system is a formality because it has already been used for several years as a designated route with many people already believing it had previously received that designation.
• Supervisors approved a picnic license application for Lakeland Rotary so the group can conduct its annual Loop Around the Lake event Feb. 2.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.