Quarry Committee, supervisors say it is time county pays community for decades of gravel removal
Town of Saukville officials have adopted a resolution asking Ozaukee County to offer the township compensation for hosting county quarrying operations for decades.
The resolution was inspired by the county’s recent acquisition of a new gravel quarrying site on Birchwood Road known as the Opitz pit, but was also fueled by the county’s ongoing operation of an asphalt plant on adjacent land.
It puts in writing ways the town would like to receive considerations from the county, including formalizing some services the county already provides to the township.
The resolution was crafted by the town’s Quarry Committee but underwent a considerable amount of last-minute tweaking during a joint meeting with the Town Board on Friday, Feb. 20.
After laying the foundation for the call for county compensation, the resolution — which was unanimously approved by the Town Board — spells out a series of concessions officials hope to receive from the county.
The Quarry Committee spent months debating what level of financial support would be appropriate from the county, and even that level of preparation was enhanced by a last-minute change advocated by Marvin Hoffmann.
Originally, one of the concessions sought by the committee was for the county to repair all potholes at the intersection of town and county roads.
Hoffmann, a former town chairman and current committee member, said that provision should be expanded to include patching potholes on all town roads.
“It would make things simpler and I don’t think it would be asking too much,” he said.
Officials agreed with the idea of broadening the responsibility, asking that the patching be done at the direction of the town.
“If we identify the potholes and what is reasonable to repair, I think it makes sense. It is a little burdensome if we ask (the county’s highway department) to patrol our roads,” Town Supr. Curt Rutkowski said.
“On a road like Hickory Road, you can’t tell the potholes from the road.”
To avoid the accusation that the town would by trying to get the county to pave its roads at no charge, Rutkowski suggested the phrase “that may reasonably be patched” be added to the resolution.
Other points cited in the resolution:
• Quarrying at the Opitz pit, which has not yet started, not be conducted within 200 feet of any lot line.
• The county maintain Lakeland Road between Highway 33 and its asphalt plant. The county says it is already doing that.
• The county regrade all gravel roads in the township in spring and fall.
• And that all the provisions remain in effect until the county ends gravel quarrying in the town.
County officials previously said there is enough sand and gravel available on the Opitz property, which was purchased in 2012, to provide materials sufficient to meet the road-building needs of the highway department for as long as eight years.
Quarry Committee cochairman Victor Frank said the compensation measures are simply a matter of the county acknowledging the burden gravel operations have been for the town.
“I think this had dragged on long enough. It is important for the town people to get this done,” Frank said.
Coming up with the final wording for the resolution proved challenging, as the committee and Town Board had different ideas of what the document should accomplish.
The original version of the resolution noted that the town has 3,000 acres of tax-exempt land, but town supervisors said their case would be strengthened if the document cited only the county-owned land.
At the direction of the board, Town Clerk Naomi Bruecker determined there are 927 acres of tax exempt, county-owned land in the township.
In addition to the county’s three active gravel pits, it also owns Hawthorne Hills Golf Course, Pioneer Village, Tendick and Ehlers parks.
Town Supr. Mike Denzien said it sounded a little like town officials were asking to “get out the violins,” by holding the county responsible for the town being home to such nonprofit properties as Riveredge Nature Center,
Blue Heron Wildlife Refuge and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Field Station in the Cedarburg Bog.
“If I were a county supervisor, I would start glossing when I see all of the non-county properties listed in the resolution,” Town Chairman Don Hamm said.
The crux of the resolution is summed up in the point that, “for the past 40 years, natural resources have been removed from the Town of Saukville for the benefit of the entire Ozaukee County with no compensation to the town.”
County Supr. Barb Jobs, former town chairman, said she would usher the resolution through the proper channels at the county.
Jobs said she did not know if the resolution would be forwarded to the county’s Public Works Committee or the Natural Resources Committee, on which she serves.
Frank said he hopes county officials see the resolution in the sympathetic light in which it was intended.
“All this is is a request from the town, not a demand,” he said.