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St. Germain to relocate snowmobile/ATV trail

August 02, 2019 by Fred Williston

At a special meeting Monday night, the St. Germain Town Board worked towards relocating a stretch of snowmobile and all-terrain/utility vehicle trail, demolishing its red brick schoolhouse, and amending costs for town road repairs.

New trail to blaze

In an effort to plan ahead and to accommodate as many user groups as possible, the board is hoping to move a stretch of snowmobile and ATV trail on a large tract of town property.  

The property in question sits east of Wisconsin State Trunk Highway 155 and south of Little Bass Lake. Included in the town property is the northernmost end of Forest Lane, which runs parallel to the highway and sits to its east. Near the north terminus of Forest Lane is the town’s yard waste site, sometimes referred to colloquially as the “stump dump.”

Several months ago, the town’s non-motorized trails committee put in a request to build a new parking lot for recreational use — preferably where the stump dump and its parking lot now sit. The group hopes to convert the area — and its slope called Fern Ridge — into a town sledding hill at some point in the future.

“We researched into moving the yard waste facility over by the transfer station and the former landfill,” town chairman Tom Christensen explained at Monday’s meeting. “It’s not practical to move that. Between the fencing and the expense of what needs to be done to the property ... It just isn’t practical to do. So the area where they requested to have the parking lot probably isn’t going to happen.”

Instead, Christensen said the next area for it to happen would be at the end of the road and “down the hill.”

“That area would be the next spot to put the parking lot for trail activities on the Fern Ridge,” he said.

The only complication for that particular plan is the snowmobile and ATV trail, which runs through the center of the proposed site.

Christensen distributed an aerial photograph of the area to the board and the audience. Both the current trail and a proposed re-route were highlighted.  The proposed trail would run significantly south of the existing one, sending it away from Fern Ridge and connecting it to Forest Lane  In the winter, Forest Lane would be plowed and snowmobiles would share approximately one-tenth of a mile of the road with cars.

Though the board can vote to do as it pleases with town land, Christensen invited input from representatives of the snowmobile, ATV/UTV, and non-motorized communities.  

Steve Soltwedel, a board member of the Bo-Boen Snowmobile Club as well as a past president for the club, said he didn’t think the trail relocation would be a problem at all.

“I don’t think either club will have an issue with it,” Soltwedel said.

Supervisor Jim Swenson, who chairs the non-motorized trails committee and also sits on the Bo-Boen board, said “it’s a good move.”

“We want to get the motorized vehicles on the periphery of the property,” Swenson said. “It’s for safety and it leaves open potential expansion for non-motorized use.”

“Then I guess the next question — that’s kind of the elephant in the room — is: who is going to pay for moving the snowmobile and ATV/UTV trail?” Christensen asked.

“It’s my opinion that it’s the town’s property,” supervisor Brian Cooper answered. “It’s the town’s idea to be moving the trails around that are already existing. So, unfortunately, I think that falls on us.”

“I’m inclined to agree with Brian,” supervisor Ted Ritter added. “But I’m wondering just how much cost there would be.”

“Could you have the town crew blast the trail in?” Jim Vogel asked from the audience.

“That would probably be our least expensive option,” Christensen responded.

Supervisor Tim Clark disagreed. 

“Personally, I think you’d get it done a lot faster and cheaper with a contractor,” Clark said.

The meeting’s agenda called for a decision on the placement of the new parking lot, but supervisors all agreed an approval without visual inspection would not be prudent. 

In addition to picking a final spot for the parking area, some suggestion was made about extending the motorized trail east of Forest Lane so cars and snowmobiles would not share that roughly-tenth-of-a-mile stretch of road. The board scheduled and held another special meeting last night to take a walking tour of the property and to vote on any potential action.

The beginning of the end for the red brick schoolhouse

After several years of debate and votes over what should become of various town properties, electors authorized the town board to demolish its red brick schoolhouse.

According to town clerk Tom Martens, the school — erected in 1941 — was not only the oldest structure in town, but it was also the first building in St. Germain. It has been shuttered for roughly 20 years.

After receiving six bids for demolition of the schoolhouse, the board voted to award the contract to C & D Excavating of Merrill.  The firm was the low bidder with an all-in price tag of roughly $64,000. The job — including asbestos abatement and back-filling the hole left from foundation removal — will have a finish date of Nov. 8.

Legally, the physical structure and all of its contents will become the property of C & D Excavating once the contract is signed, so the board will hold off finalizing the deal until enough time has been allowed to remove town documents and any items of historical or sentimental value.

Questions were raised about one last public tour of the building, but the board opted to accommodate individual requests rather than schedule a single event.

Cooper said several of his constituents asked about whether or not they could get individual bricks from the building to keep as souvenirs. Swenson indicated that could be problematic, as the bricks may have salvage value to C & D Excavating and would technically be the firm’s property.

“That was my answer to these people, too,” Cooper said. “What I told them was ‘If you want bricks, when they’re taking the building down, go over and ask the guy that’s running the machine if you can have a brick.”

“I think it would be more reasonable to have them contact C & D Excavating out of Merrill,” Christensen said, not wanting to encourage souvenir-seekers to enter a construction zone.

The board voted unanimously to salvage the plaque from the school’s “Alice M. Drews Memorial Library” and present it as a gift to Alice Drews’ grandson. 

Drews worked as the school’s cook from 1950 to 1964.  

“She must have been doing plenty of other things for the school besides cooking for them to have honored her in that way,” Christensen said. 

Change of plans for South Bay Road

After the town contracted with Pitlik and Wick to re-pave and seal-coat a portion of South Bay Road, several new buckles appeared in the road’s surface. 

Extra work — at extra cost — will be required for a proper fix.

A change order must be agreed upon by both the town board and Pitlik & Wick before the job can commence.

Christensen said Star Lane, in the same area, is also in need of a seal-coating and was not slated for work.  

“Why we never put that in the original bid, I’m not quite sure,” he said. 

It would save the town money to have Pitlik & Wick perform work on both roads at the same time rather than break the projects into two separate jobs.

In order to complete the work on both South Bay Road and Star Lane, the board will have to approve spending an additional $25,283 over the original bid price, which will need to be borrowed.

“It doesn’t pay to do a job halfway,” Clark said.

Christensen said Wednesday the matter would be on the agenda for another special meeting the following night.


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