When The Rubber Hits The Washboard Road, Residents See Red

Aug 7, 2019

Credit Wikimedia Commons Royal Broil

Minocqua-The Minocqua Town Board got mired in a 90-minute discussion on town roads Tuesday, mostly centered on residents’ concerns about potholes, standing water and motorists driving too fast.

Minocqua has nearly 200 miles of town roads to maintain. Most are asphalt but a number are gravel with a few lacking even that cover.

First up was Bolger Lake Road, which the town took over as a town road a couple of years back after residents pushed for town snowplowing and other maintenance. The asphalt is crumbling and no longer can town crews keep patching it, said director of public works Mark Pertile. Options for the quarter mile road would be to gravel it for about $10,000 or chip seal it with that option costing upwards of $20,000. Laying down asphalt would cost much more. The town board accepted Pertile’s recommendation that the remaining asphalt be pulverized next spring and the road graveled. The town would then place the road in its 5-year program for upgrades.

Next up was McCoy Road, a one-mile stretch that requires gravel, said two representatives from that area. Back in 2016, area residents were promised an upgrade to the road, said Edward (Ned) Greedy and Charles Buchheit, in a letter to the board. Both men were at the meeting to argue their cause. “After three years we still have debris left along the road with raw dirt banks, a flat road without a crown, without ditches and without additional surface material to prevent potholes and erosion,” the letter said. Despite a “five minute scrape” by a road grader, the “road immediately reclaims its potholes and falls into disrepair. Without any road gravel, it’s a dust bowl.” And after it rains, one section of the road turns into “a 20-foot lake down the middle,” said Buchheit. Pertile countered that the town has substantially improved the road, which he characterized as a “trail” when they first began work on it. The road was widened so that garbage trucks can reach residences and even fire trucks in case of a fire. He acknowledged it still needs work, but said it was about “85% complete.”

But his department has only so much resources – money and manpower – to tackle road projects, Pertile said. Currently, the crews are working to replace a half dozen culverts. The town’s gravel roads are all “a challenge” after a hard rain, he said. After much discussion, the board and Pertile agreed to put gravel on a couple rough areas of the road. Finally, there were calls for – and against – reducing the speed limit on Squirrel Lake Road. The Squirrel Lake Owners Association wants the speed lowered by 10 miles per hour to 45 mph, said representative Michael Kennedy. Among their concerns were sharp curves that sometimes see speeding motorists edging out into the opposing lane of traffic. “There are a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the road,” he said. “People are walking their dogs. They are riding their bikes. You get people who are in and out for the week. Somebody is going to get hurt.”

But the town office had received several e-mails from residents who oppose lowering the current 55 mph speed limit, said town chairman Mark Hartzheim. Supervisor John Thompson, when he lived along the road, said he “never felt that I was in danger” traveling the road. In the end, the board agreed to place signs alerting motorists of curves, which everyone in the audience agreed was the right thing to do.

The board also directed the police department to run enforcement and to collect information about the average speed of motorists. For now, the town isn’t lowering the speed limit.

In an unrelated action, the board approved a driveway permit for William Campbell. The additional driveway just west of the Thoroughfare bridge is to access Campbell’s pier system, currently in litigation between Campbell and Oneida County. The board was clear that it was not endorsing his pier system by granting the driveway permit.