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home : news : vilas county July 22, 2017

5/19/2017 7:22:00 AM
Vilas County Highway Committee to look at road funding options
Scholtes: 'We're going to have to make some serious decisions here'

Brian Jopek

The Vilas County board's highway committee will receive more information at its June 20 meeting regarding funding options to repair a stretch of County Highway B in the Land O'Lakes area.

County highway commissioner Nick Scholtes had the matter on Tuesday's agenda as a "heads up"-type item.

"County trunk highway B is falling apart," he said. "The chip seal that was put on it in 2011 is actually disintegrating. Right now, we have probably seven miles of road that is in poor condition. Really bad."

'The worst road in the county'

Scholtes said he toured the stretch of Hwy. B in question with county finance director Jason Hilger "to show him the importance of what's happening in that area."

He said holes in the pavement that were very small in size last year have become rather large in several stretches.

"Eight-hundred feet at a clip and it's just coming apart," Scholtes said.

He then presented three funding options to address that 7-mile portion of Hwy. B, stressing the options were strictly "food for thought" at this point.

"There's no decisions to be made here today because it's all going to be part of the 5-year plan," Scholtes said.

He said one mile of the road was taken care of last year and another is going into the federal government's Surface Transportation Program for funding.

"That still leaves us with 29 miles of road," Scholtes said. "One option would be to do a bonding and take care of the 29 miles at one time."

By doing that, he said, the county could get a reduced price-per-mile cost.

"Where typically, it would be $160,000 a mile, with that big a volume (of road), you might get at $140,000 a mile," Scholtes said. "Easy math, if you did 30 miles, you're talking $600,000 in savings."

He said another option would be to do it in increments of 10 miles over the next few years.

"That would require us to increase our annual road construction from $900,000 ... we'd have to almost double it to $1.7 million to do that," Scholtes said.

The third option would be to "stay the course" and move the next phase of the Hwy. M project - from the Hwy. N intersection to Boulder Junction - into the next couple of years.

The first seven miles of Hwy. B toward Land O' Lakes, from its junction with Hwy. M to Palmer Lake Road, is the section Scholtes and his staff would like to address first.

He said the third option would bring things within the department's $900,000 road budget because some would again be funded with grant money.

"Those are the three things we're tossing around but we wanted you to be aware of it," Scholtes said. "We have to do something. We have to make a decision and move forward here shortly. I'm hoping to have all that ready to be presented to you next month. At that point, we're going to have some tough decisions and then there's going to have to be guidance from the committee which direction we want to go."

He said he received a phone call from a resident in the Land O'Lakes area who was upset about the condition of Hwy. B.

"He was upset about the fact the road was breaking apart," Scholtes said. "'It's the worst road in the county' and 'How can we be ignoring that road?' We weren't ignoring the road."

Scholtes said he was asked why the potholes weren't getting fixed and he said rainy weather prohibited that and if asphalt patch were to be installed in a pothole, it wouldn't have stayed.

"Every chance we've had, we've tried to get people up there to get those filled in and things of that nature," he said. "We're doing our best to try and clean that up but I know the people in that area are not real happy right now and it's something we're going to have to deal with."

"I hear it every day," committee member Willy Otterpohl, the Land O'Lakes representative on the Vilas County board, said.

"You actually took Jason (Hilger) up there?" committee member Art Kinde asked.

"I wanted to take Jason up there because I wanted him to see what we have going on," Scholtes said. "That there's serious stuff going on and we're going to have to make some serious decisions here very shortly. With him being the finance director, I just felt it was better to have him in the loop and try to work with him to come up with a plan."

He said Hilger wasn't against any of the ideas regarding how to tackle the Hwy. B issue presented to this point.

"As a matter of fact ... we had a very good discussion," Scholtes said.

"What you're saying is, it's like the rest of the road programs in the country," committee chairman Charles Rayala said. "We don't have enough money."

"There's an issue there," Scholtes said. "Even if we went with bonding ... bonding would be a cure to get you back on program but you would still have to maintain your road construction. Just because you did the bonding to fix up a bad road, does not mean you stop your road construction program. We still have to maintain the $900,000 a year and bump it up a little if you could. But if you did bonding, then it becomes a general fund thing rather than a highway department thing."

On other items, the committee:

• Heard the results of three bids for a new single axle patrol truck. Scholtes said county highway superintendent Troy Schalinske will review the bids to make sure specifications are met and bring them back to the June meeting for committee consideration.

• Heard a 2016 budget wrap up from department's financial services coordinator, Tom Numrich, that after an audit, the department's total income for the year was $323,000.

• Approved a bid from Fahrner Asphalt for $58,616.65 to do latex road striping. Century Fence was awarded the bid to do epoxy striping at $23,090.32.

• Approved a bid of $43,800 from Musson Brothers Construction of Rhinelander to replace a 90-foot long, 48 inch wide culvert on Hwy. D near its junction with State Highway 70. The other bid was from Pitlik and Wick for $52,500.

• Heard from Scholtes on a staffing change involving the forestry department in which the highway department will lose a part-time position, he would be approaching the committee with a request to make that part-time position full time. "We really feel there's a need for another position in this department," he said.

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.

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