Highway satellite shops approved

By JAMES KATES / Capstone Managing Editor

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors approved a plan Tuesday to build two highway-shop satellite facilities at a cost of $500,000 each.

The satellite shops in Lake Mills and Concord will house equipment, supplies and personnel to help county highway workers respond faster and more efficiently for snow plowing and road work.

The shops will augment the new main highway shop on county Highway W in Jefferson. The new highway shop, which will replace an outmoded facility in the northern part of the City of Jefferson, will be finished in April, county Highway Commissioner Bill Kern told supervisors.

The County Board also authorized borrowing $3,980,000 to complete work on the highway shop and satellite facilities. This brings the county’s total debt for the projects to $17.2 million. The county has no other debt.

Supervisors Carlton Zentner and John Kannard questioned the cost of the satellite facilities, but Kern told board members that the small shops would save money on fuel costs and labor.

“Our guys live all over the county,” Kern said. “If we’re calling them out at 2 or 4 in the morning, they can get there more quickly.”

During the winter, four plow trucks would be stored at each of the satellite shops, with 25 trucks at the main shop in Jefferson. Truck drivers in outlying areas could go to the satellite shops and get to work immediately, rather than wasting 30 minutes or more getting to their routes from Jefferson, Kern said.

With fuel savings and reimbursement from the state Department of Transportation, the two shops could bring a return on investment of $50,000 to $70,000 a year, Kern said. The county might consider building satellite shops in Palmyra or Ixonia in the future, he added.

The fate of the old highway shop, meanwhile, has yet to be determined. The shop’s buildings date back to the 1930s and 1970s. The county plans to demolish them to remove an eyesore and encourage development of the 26-acre site.

County Administrator Ben Wehmeier told the board that the environmental situation at the old site is “not as bad as we thought it could be.”

Soil borings at the site south of Puerner Street have revealed residual petroleum and salt along with low levels of arsenic, but cleanup costs should be moderate, he said.

Before the meeting, Wehmeier told reporters that the City of Jefferson might include the site in its riverwalk and recreation plans. The site is within a tax-incremental financing (TIF) district, so commercial development is a possibility.

The site also could accommodate student housing for a proposed osteopathic medical college in Jefferson if that plan comes to fruition, Wehmeier said.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

— Approved a transportation planning agreement covering a 2.7-square-mile portion of land extending into Jefferson County along state Highway 16 from Oconomowoc. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission now considers the land to be part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The move may help bring highway funding to the area, County Board Chairman Jim Schroeder said.

— Approved a $281,467 contract with General Communications to upgrade the public safety radio and dispatch system in the Sheriff’s Department.

— Approved a memorial resolution for former supervisor Kathleen Groskopf, who died in February.

— Proclaimed March 13 as K-9 Veterans Day to honor military and police dogs and their handlers.

— Proclaimed April 2015 as Child Abuse and Neglect Protection Month.