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Below is an article by Brian Jopek of the Lakeland Times from August 15, 2017:

Boulder Junction's Road Committee Holds Information Meetings 

Sparse attendance a concern as question moves toward elector vote in September

Thursday's public information meeting the Boulder Junction Town Board's road improvement committee conducted had a total of eight people who weren't committee members in the audience. At Tuesday's public information meeting, there were 12. 

Thursday's public information meeting the Boulder Junction Town Board's road improvement committee conducted had a total of eight people who weren't committee members in the audience. At Tuesday's public information meeting, there were 12.

After months of meetings, data gathering and getting "eyes on" assessments of Boulder Junction's 93 miles of roads, the town board's road improvement committee, formed in February with the mission of developing something electors can vote on Sept. 12, got another step toward that with two public information meetings last week. 

The problem committee members noted was the attendance at the meetings, both held in the town's community center, the first Tuesday evening and the second Thursday afternoon. 

In total, there were 20 non-committee people in attendance. 

"This is important stuff," town supervisor Denny McGann said at different times during both meetings, a sentiment echoed by others on the committee.


Your Project


Committee member Greg Van Grinsven made the presentation at both meetings, Thursday's being the fourth and final of four public information meetings the committee has conducted over the past few months.

Up until last week's public information meetings, the committee had essentially been for several weeks considering seven different scenarios costing anywhere from around $7 million at the high end to the $200,000 or so each year the town budgets for road maintenance. 

The difference between the first two meetings and the two held last week, Van Grinsven said, was the town board's approval since of bids to have work on done on Allen Road, High Fishtrap Lake Road and Stiloski Road, a total of just over three miles of road.

The bids for that work helped greatly in solidifying the numbers for all the scenarios as presented last week and actually added two more.

"We now have updated road surface costs based upon actual bids," Van Grinsven said. 

He said another factor was actually getting out with the engineer the town hired to assist, Mark Barden with Town and Country Engineering in Rhinelander. 

Over the course of six days, all 93 miles of town road were physically assessed, which enabled an even closer and more detailed look at the different scenarios. 

"Mark has helped us create a road by road, conditions assessment," Van Grinsven said. 

Referring to the information being presented, he said while it wasn't a finished document, "it is a very good representation of what we as the committee see as the possible scenarios that can be pursued to improve our town roads and their associated investment costs."

"At the end of the day, this is your project," Van Grinsven said. "It's our goal to get you enough information to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote."

Going into last week, there were now nine scenarios, again the increase because of the new information obtained from the actual bids and Barden's road assessment.

As a result of the assessment, Van Grinsven said eight miles of gravel road no one lived on had been taken off the list.


Scenario Five 


A few of those non-committee members present at each meeting, after listening to the presentation, seemed to gravitate toward scenario number five, which would complete 60 miles of roads over two years, most of them with chip-seal coating, based upon priority for an estimated total cost of $5.3 million. 

In that scenario, the average tax impact for the owner one of 416 off-water homes in Boulder Junction assessed at $150,700 would be $109. 

The owner of one of 792 waterfront homes, assessed an average of $412,300, would see an increase of $297. 

The average home value of all 1,208 homes in Boulder Junction is estimated at $322,200, which translates to a $232 a year increase in taxes.

The next step for the road committee was a meeting held yesterday morning. 

At that meeting, the committee, aided by feedback from the informational meetings. was to come up with one scenario recommendation for the town board to consider at its Aug. 22 meeting. 

From there, the single scenario would be presented at a meeting of the electors Sept. 12, where its fate would be decided. 

If voters elect to go with the project, Barden would then assist the town with application for grant funding the town would be eligible for through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources. 

The catch there is the deadline for those applications is Oct. 1. 

If the road project should fail at that electors meeting Sept. 12, Van Grinsven, McGann and other road committee members said the town will have missed the opportunity for that funding for two years.

Near the end of the meeting, Van Grinsven summarized.

"We have nine scenarios," he said. "They all are based on some pretty good engineering work, the best available data we have. There are pros and cons to each one. There are some clear benefits to some of them and not so many with others. We as a committee want your feedback. Are we going in the right direction? Should we continue with the process?"

The response the committee received to those questions at both meetings last week was positive overall.

Boulder Junction resident Bob Vogel said he wanted to commend the committee for the work it had done.

"You know, process is very important these days," he said. "I want to commend the committee for the process they've gone about in doing this and I hope this can extend beyond this meeting. I think you've set a model here. That is very admirable."

Vogel, one of those leaning toward scenario number five, then alluded to other town board and committee meetings in recent months that had some contentious moments. 

"This is probably one of the most civil discussions I've been part of," he said. "You always work towards a benchmark to go to and I do want to commend you because there's a lot of hard work here."


Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com


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