/ Articles / Arbor Vitae looks to swap land with the DNR

Arbor Vitae looks to swap land with the DNR

January 21, 2020 by Brian Jopek

In August 2013, the Arbor Vitae Town Board was approached by representatives of the town’s fire department about the possibility of a substation. 

The basic premise was to improve the town’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating. 

That particular substation idea never went anywhere and it’s been, for the most part, at least during town board meetings for more than six years, not something on agendas for regular town board meetings and therefore, not discussed there. 

That changed at last week’s meeting of the town board. 

DNR is interested

The topic of discussion for most of the 49 minute meeting was a possible land trade between the town and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a fire department substation. 

It’s was something referred to by town chairman Frank Bauers and others as very preliminary.

He said he had the item on the agenda to bring the town board “up to date” on where things were.  

Consequently, the meeting room had nearly 25 people, some Arbor Vitae firefighters and others Arbor Vitae residents of the Trout Lake area. 

Bauers said he and Arbor Vitae fire chief Mike Van Meter had spoken to the DNR’s Craig Dalton and Sonja Margitan about the possibility of the town trading nearly nine acres it has for land the DNR has. 

Dalton is a forestry specialist and Margitan is a real estate specialist for the agency. 

Bauers said the town had that acreage to build a new landfill “until we found out how much it was gonna cost.”

“So, that land actually does us no good at all,” he said. “But the DNR is interested in acquiring that land because it’s in the middle of their forest and we’re interested in acquiring some land north on (U.S.) Highway 51 to put a substation for the fire department in that area.”

Van Meter said he was at the meeting to “dissolve” rumors he said were going around. 

“I received a phone call today in regards to this project, that we’re gonna build this great big fire station with lots of lights and we’re gonna tear up Trout Lake’s shoreline and we’re gonna have lake access,” he said. “I don’t know where this information is coming from. That was never the intention ... what we’re looking to do is get a substation on the north end of town.”

A strong contender is a spot on County Highway N about quarter of a mile west of its intersection of Hwy. 51. 

There, the fire department would like about five acres to build a 60-square-foot by 80-square-foot structure that would house up to three of the department’s trucks, Van Meter said. 

A large part of the intent, as it was explained in 2013, was to reduce the town’s ISO rating. 

Van Meter said in the past three years, he’s been working with ISO to reduce it more.

Through assessments and studies, he said a five mile radius around the town’s fire station has had its ISO rating reduced 

to 6. 

The cutoff, Van Meter said, was just north of Hwy. M.

There, he said most insurance companies consider a class 10.

“Uninsurable,” Van Meter said. “So, through a lengthy discussion with the people at ISO, it was brought to their attention that we need to do something to get a better rating for the north end of town.”

“We have nine acres to trade for five acres,” Bauers said later in the meeting. 

Dalton said he was glad the matter had been referred to as “very preliminary.”

“That’s definitely the case,” he said. “There’s other sites we could go to so we’re looking at that. Some of the parameters the town has given us and Mike. Some of the objectives of the state forest is how we came up with the sites we’re considering right now.”

Dalton said the right of way the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has at Hwy. 51 and County Hwy. N is 200 feet.

He said there’s some swamp land on the south side of Hwy. N where the DNR owns property.

“So, it would have to be further down in,” Dalton said. “I think the site we’re considering is probably almost a quarter of a mile in from (Hwy.) 51.”

Van Meter assured those in the room that whatever structure was built would blend in with its surroundings while Bauers said the intent was also to have the building constructed at no cost to the town, using grant money that would be available from sources such as the United States Department of Agriculture.

Van Meter said the fire department would do everything possible to keep the project from being “a burden” from a taxpayer standpoint.

“It’s kind what our department has prided itself on for a lot of years,” he said. “Through fundraisers, we generated enough to buy equipment and keep it off the tax rolls. Ultimately, we would work on the same thing for this fire station project.”

Whatever is done, Bauers told the audience the town would keep people informed. 

“We would be sure to make everyone aware of the decision that we make,” he said.

Other matters

In other business, the town board: 

• Approved, for Arbor Vitae residents, rental of the town hall’s community room at $500 for large events such as weddings, an increase of $100. 

The fee for non-residents is $600, up from $500.

• Had the four candidates in the April election draw numbers for their names will appear on the ballot. 

Former town treasurer Barb Freudigmann drew fourth, incumbent town supervisor Ryan Johnson drew third, Larry Haling drew the second spot and the other incumbent, Brian Nerdhahl, will appear first on the ballot. 

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].

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