MINOCQUA – With one dissenting vote, the Minocqua Town Board Tuesday authorized spending upwards of $7,800 for an engineering study of the deteriorating fishing pier adjacent to the U.S. Highway 51 bridge.
Town chairman Mark Hartzheim said the study should be funded in order to see the depth of problems at the municipal pier. It’s frequented by fishermen and sightseers and has eight berthing slips for boats. The contract was awarded to MSA, of Rhinelander. The contract calls for an engineering study of the bridge defects with recommendations to either rehabilitate or replace the large wooden structure. MSA will help the town prepare documents needed for federal and state grant applications.
The state Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program offers a 50 percent matching grant to successful applicants. “We really can’t wait too long,” said Mark Pertile, public works director, about the grant application. The state grant has a May 1, 2018 application deadline. It could be 2019 or 2020 before substantial work could be done on the structure. “You as a town will have to do something with that structure whether it’s funded or not,” said MSA representative Jim Bollmann. “The deck is really in poor condition and what we would consider the superstructure is in poor condition. We didn’t want to do repairs to either of those without looking at substructure, which is what I would consider the pilings. Because you don’t want to throw good money after bad.” Bollmann said his report would offer options for the board to consider, including rehabilitation or complete teardown and replacement.
Previously, Ayres Associates of Eau Claire reviewed the structure’s integrity, including sending a diver to inspect the many dozens of timber piles from below. Of 160 timber piles, Ayres said 22 are in good condition, 87 in fair condition, 44 in poor condition and seven in severe condition. A few aren’t even supporting the underdecking. “The condition of the decking is in poor shape,” said Pertile. A utility truck broke through the decking a couple of years ago while attempting work on a light pole. Then, a contractor using a small Bobcat to do those repairs also broke through the decking. “It doesn’t pay to start putting money into the decking if the pilings are in poor condition and the substructure is in poor condition.”
Supervisor Bill Fried cast the sole no vote (Supervisor John Thompson was absent). “I am against it right now,” Fried said, explaining the board should wait until 2018 budget work was complete in order to see where it fits in the priority list of needed projects. He also said the structure is safe for foot traffic at present. But Sue Heil agreed with Hartzheim that the study was needed in order to determine the extent of needed repairs or its replacement. Supervisor Bill Stengl characterized the pier structure as an iconic part of Minocqua, similar to the former “T-Bird Country” bridge in Hazelhurst that spanned U.S. Highway 51. Tearing it down and replacing it might draw the similar reaction, he said. He also wanted the board to weigh in with approval at various steps along the process. “Is this a $50,000 rehab or a $500,000 rebuild,” he wondered.
In other actions, the board gave preliminary approval to a request by the Minocqua Fire Department for a fundraiser during the 2018 Fall Ride motorcycle event. Department representative Brian Hazelett said they plan to have food, beer and an Irish band at Torpy Park. They will return later for a beer license. “It’s a great idea,” said Heil of the proposed event. The board also approved a beer license for the Lakeland Hawks for their Hoedown event Oct. 14 in Torpy Park. Pertile will put together a final draft of an ordinance that will require anyone doing excavator work on town property, including rights-of-way, to first get a permit from the town. Allowance would be given in emergency situations, such as a water main break. The permit fee would be small, Hartzheim noted, but the fine for noncompliance would be higher.