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Minocqua Pothole Breaks Board's Patience

Wikimedia Commons Miguel Tremblay

MINOCQUA – Minocqua officials -- besieged by complaints about a festering pothole on the Island of Minocqua -- put a pair of state Department of Transportation (DOT) and Oneida County highway officials on the proverbial hot seat Tuesday. “These potholes get bigger and bigger,” said supervisor Billy Fried, adding that the state-directed highway maintenance “hasn’t been up to what it use to be.”

The pothole in question resides on the “S” curve on the northbound Hwy. 51 route through the downtown (near Front Street). Oneida County has a contract with the state to repair and snowplow Hwy. 51.

Oneida patrol superintendent Ben Rich shared the hot seat, but much of the board’s ire was directed at Randy Frisch, maintenance coordinator out of the DOT’s Rhinelander office. Despite Minocqua’s concerns, Frisch said, there are higher priorities elsewhere, including potholes on highways with much higher speed limits. His responsibilities cover a 4-county area.

That explanation didn’t sit well with either the board or Minocqua’s director of public works Mark Pertile. “It doesn’t appear that the state is taking safety into consideration with this,” said Pertile. Not only is the pothole destructive of tires and tie rods, it poses a potential safety issue for a motorist who could lose control of the vehicle after hitting it, said supervisor John Thompson. “I live here and I still run through it on occasion,” he said, adding that unsuspecting tourists this Christmas season will undoubtedly hit it.

An anticipated influx of tourists during this past fall’s Beef-A-Rama prompted Minocqua at its own cost to have its public works crew patch potholes on Hwy. 51 and Hwy. 70. Frisch said the DOT’s schedule of work does include remilling pavement on that section of Hwy. 51 next spring.

But a five- or six-month wait was not the answer to the board’s concerns. All did agree that “cold patch” using asphalt probably wouldn’t last more than a day. A product called mastic sealant would last much longer, but the roadbed has to be dry and free of snow before it can be applied. Mastic is a highly self-adhesive ridged asphalt binder that contains selected aggregate. The cost estimate of doing the latter was $1,500. “So we’re going to go all winter with a stupid pothole there over fifteen hundred bucks because the state won’t approve it or you guys won’t do it,” said supervisor Bill Stengl to the two men. “We have to be good agents of the taxpayers’ money,” replied Frisch. “We have potholes on (Hwy.) 51 and on Hwy. 70. We take all of our potholes very seriously. They are all safety issues. We are not saying it’s not an issue; we have a lot of issues right now.”

Town officials continued to hammer Frisch, asking if he couldn’t get it fixed, then they wanted to bump their concerns up the ladder to a higher supervisor. Frisch didn’t promise anything, saying he would speak to his superiors about the matter. Pertile pressed him on getting an answer within a day or two at the most.

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