City ready to fight for trail from downtown to Freedom Park

DOT plans sidewalk on route

PRESCOTT – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation doesn’t have a multi-use trail from downtown to Freedom Park in plans for the 2026/2027 Highways 10 and 35 road construction project in Prescott.

Instead, the DOT wants to install a six-foot sidewalk that would butt right up to the curb of the road.

That’s a non-starter from Prescott’s point of view. The city also has other concerns with a proposed maintenance plan that would require Prescott to do future fixes on the roadway at city expense.

As a result, the city council’s Public Works Committee is going to invite DOT officials to a meeting to see if any common ground can be found.

The council discussed the major future road project at its meeting Monday, Nov. 14, and alderpersons learned that the project would be pushed back if an agreement can’t be reached on a maintenance agreement.

The DOT has proposed putting in the sidewalk, rather than the trail, with the city picking up 20 percent of the cost. If the city wants the 10-foot-wide multi-use trail built four feet in from the edge of the road, City Administrator Matt Wolf said the city would have to contribute $1.348 million to the project.

“What they’re saying is the sidewalk would be good enough,” Wolf said.

The DOT also plans four-foot bike lanes along the side of Highway 35. The city feels the road could be narrowed, which would help slow traffic in the 25 mph zone, and that would give plenty of room for the trail. However, the DOT responded that the curb and gutter along the route aren’t being replaced, because they consider them still to be in good condition.

The city’s stance is that if they’re forced to maintain aspects of the project, they should have a say in what’s built.

“We’ve been pushing back. If we’re maintaining it, we want it to be built in the way that’s most useful for us. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been pushing for that trail from downtown,” said Wolf.

The city could apply for transportation grant funding to help pay for the trail. However, Wolf said the city already plans to apply for that grant to get a walkway developed under Highway 29 so residents can walk to the Eagle Ridge Business Park area.

“We keep pushing back on this, and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere,” said Alderperson Bailey Ruona.

The city will also be asked to pick up future maintenance of curb and gutter along the route, retaining walls from downtown to Freedom Park and some storm sewer, Wolf said.

Council members were concerned because they aren’t having any say in materials used or the construction process but have to pay to fix things in the future.

Alderperson Pat Knox said that the state talks about keeping taxes low but passes these things on to communities like Prescott.

“They’re pushing expenses up the highway from Madison onto us. It’s a shell game,” he said.

Mayor Robert Daugherty commented, “Basically, they’re giving us the used car and asking us to maintain it like a new car.”

“With an oil leak,” Ruona added. “I really think we have to have the multiuse trail, one way or another,” said Alderperson Maureen Otwell. “We’ve talked about having a trail from downtown to Freedom Park for a long time.”

Alderperson Thomas Oss said, “It’s worth getting scrappy about.”

Wolf will work out a date for a joint meeting.

Water rate study

The city applied for a simplified water rate increase of 4.5 percent with the state Public Service Commission.

The city has some big projects looming, with one well offline because of nitrate problems and some road rebuilds in planning. The council voted unanimously to have the consulting firm Ehlers Public Finance Advisors do a phase 1 rate study.

Wolf told the council that water infrastructure improvements and bringing the well back online could put the city near its debt capacity for its water utility.

He said as part of the plan, the city will give Ehlers a list of capital projects planned in the next decade, and they’ll tell the city where their water rate needs to be.

“They’ll do an analysis of what kind of rate increase we might be facing if we were to bring it to the PSC,” Wolf said. “It doesn’t mean we’re bringing it to the PSC. They’re doing an analysis, and they’ll bring it to the council for review.”

Prior to sending the info to the PSC, the council would review the plan and approve it.

New committees

Unanimous approval was given to a new committee structure that consolidates the seven current council committees down to four. The new standing committees and their makeup will be:

• Finance – Made up of the mayor and full council.

• Parks and Public Works – Made up of hree alderpersons.

• Health and Safety – Made up of three alderpersons.

• Personnel – Made up of three alderpersons.

The council has held discussions at several previous meetings, and it was stated that some committees view the same topics and others aren’t necessary due to Wisconsin State statutes.

Spring election

Two city council seats are up for re-election, and there will be at least one new member on the city council.

Thomas Oss is up for re-election in Ward 3, and Darlyn Hintz is up for re-election in Ward 4. However, because of city redistricting, Oss now lives in the second ward, and Hintz lives in the third ward.

“I cannot run again in the third ward. I’m in the second ward now,” Oss said.

Hintz indicated she will seek re-election, though.

Terms of office are three years. Anyone interested can declare candidacy at the city clerk office and start circulating nomination papers as of Dec. 1. They need to be returned by Tuesday, Jan. 3.

November 15, 2022