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Oneida County public works approves road plan

November 12, 2019 by Brian Jopek

The Oneida County board’s public works committee last week approved a five year road plan highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek put together.

It was mentioned by committee chairman Robb Jensen during the discussion the road plan is a “living document.”

The handout Stefonek presented to the committee included totals the county spent on roads in 2017 and 2018 — just over $1.6 million for 2017 and a little more than $1 million in 2018 — for comparison. 

For 2020, $2,081,737 in expenditures for a little more than 14.5 miles of construction and maintenance of stretches of County Highways D, Y and N are listed. 

“It can change,” Jensen said toward the end of the discussion. “It gives a tentative look at 2020.”

Committee member Scott Holewinski said Stefonek really should have a plan for the grant application process. 

“That grant thing ... you’re supposed to use every conceivable reason it should be done,” committee member Ted Cushing said. “Is it for tourism? Does it effect tourism if it doesn’t get done? Do people have to use it (the road) to get to work?”

Town chairman of Hazelhurst, he said a culvert replacement being applied for there is up against part of the Bearskin Trail. 

“That’s points,” Cushing said. “I mean, you gotta use your imagination. It’s unbelievable.”

Earlier, Jensen said the five year plan Stefonek was presenting was for information only. 

The comments from Holewinski and Cushing apparently changed that. 

“I’m assuming,” Jensen said to Stefonek, “us approving the road plan is beneficial in terms of your applying for projects? Would you like us to approve this?”

“I’d like to get approval,” Stefonek said, adding grant funding for chipping on Hwy. D hinges on that. “Yes, we need to have it approved.”

Kemp Street culvert

Stefonek briefed the committee about a recent meeting of the Rhinelander city council he attended.

He informed the committee he was told council members had not received copies of bills for replacement of a culvert on Kemp Street Stefonek had submitted to the city a few weeks prior. 

“So, the council members were just basically listening,” Stefonek said. “A couple questions came forward.”

He said Rhinelander mayor Chris Frederickson asked him to gather information. 

Stefonek said information has also been submitted to the county’s corporation council, but because he hadn’t received everything, the matter couldn’t really be discussed. 

He was to be at last night’s Rhinelander city council meeting about the matter, which is a 50/50 cost share between the county and the city for the $38,000 culvert project.

“How early on the agenda are you?” Jensen said after Stefonek jokingly referred to members of the committee attending to “back me up.”

“I went there to a meeting ... they went through and approved every voucher,” Jensen said. 

“One at a time?” Holewinski asked. 

“One at a time,” Jensen said. 

He got back on topic.

“This (culvert replacement) was to be a joint effort between the county and the city,” Jensen said.

“Right,” Stefonek said, indicating it was an agreement between himself and former Rhinelander public works director Tim Kingman, who was fired over the summer. 

“Well, they’ll say ‘He had no right to make that decision,’” Cushing said. “That’s what they’ll do.”

Stefonek said he’d tried to get a written agreement from Kingman.

“But he would not give it to me in writing,” he said. “It’s not like I didn’t ask.”

Holewinski said the county handles the city’s sand and salt storage.

“There’s nothing in writing with that,” he said. “With the fuel, there’s nothing in writing on that. We’ve been operating together a long time and now, because they have to pay, they don’t wanna pay?”

Stefonek indicated he should know more after the city council meeting.

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

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