The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be in Deerfield Monday, Sept. 16 to talk about the 2023 reconstruction of State Highway 73 through the village.
While DOT officials are on hand, Village Board members say they plan to express their unhappiness about deteriorated stretches of the road and to reiterate that those can’t wait four more years to be fixed.
The Village Board will meet with the DOT from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Deerfield Public Library, 12 W. Nelson St. That will be followed by a meeting for the general public from 5 to 7 p.m. also at the library.
DOT last officials visited Deerfield in October 2018 to talk about the upcoming highway reconstruction. They said then that
the current plan is to redo a 1.9-mile stretch from Shaul Lane to just past North Street in 2023.
Most of the route will simply be milled and will get a new overlay of asphalt pavement. In two particularly deteriorated places, however, from East Quarry Street to State Street and from 500 feet north of the Glacial Drumlin State Trail to just north of North Street, the roadbed will be completely reconstructed, DOT officials said then.
Village board members expressed concerns in 2018 about the lengthy timeline before the reconstruction, and that the reconstruction has been rescheduled at least once, with 2021 the original date.
Those concerns resurfaced at a Village Board meeting Monday night, Sept. 9.
“I still think waiting until 2023 is totally unacceptable,” Village Board member Gary Wieczorek said. “I think we’re being placated, and we’re being treated as a second-class community.”
“I agree,” concurred Village Board member Arnold Evenson.
Compared to road construction work happening elsewhere in Dane County, “there’s nothing going on in the eastern part of this county,” Wieczorek added. “We’re going to have to be the squeaky wheel.”
Wieczorek said as the village eyes a significant upgrade of its downtown streetscape, and has begun granting matching funds to businesses for building improvements, all funded through a successful tax incremental finance district, the road’s condition should also be a priority.
Wieczorek said he’s heard from local residents, including one person “who can’t ride his motorcycle in town anymore,” because of the abundance of potholes.
Emergency responders, too, have expressed concern about the roads they say make it hard to smoothly transport critically ill and injured patients.
“I would ask that we encourage the Chamber of Commerce, the businesses along there, if you could pass the word to encourage people to show up. We need to get public support and let our politicians know too,” about the concerns, Wieczorek said.
After the Sept. 9 meeting, Wieczorek said Deerfield officials have been considering recently the idea of “writing a letter to the secretary of transportation and copying all the elected representatives of the area to say we’re being neglected.”
“If you drive into this town what do you think? They don’t take care of their roads,” he said.
DOT officials said in October 2018 that it’s the responsibility of Dane County, which the DOT contracts with, to make temporary fixes to the roadway to get it through to 2023.
Dane County Board member Bob Salov, in the audience at an October 2018 village Public Works meeting, noted that county responsibility.
In a report presented to the Public Works Committee in 2018, DOT representatives acknowledged that the existing pavement is 26 years old and “has deteriorated with extensive cracking and rutting.”
However, they said state projects are prioritized based on the availability of funds.
“We can only do what we have funds for,” said Brenda Schoenfeld, a project development supervisor for the DOT’s Division of Transportation System Development. ”There’s a lot of needs.”
The actual work is expected to take 4-6 months to complete, with one lane of traffic open during that time and emergency access maintained.
In its 2018 report, the DOT also said about 5,400 vehicles travel the 1.9-mile stretch every day, with about 13 percent of that heavy truck traffic.
TIF boundary request
In other matters, several downtown business owners have approached the village, asking if they can be added to its tax incremental finance district #3.
That TIF district is expected to fund about $1.75 million in projects through 2026, including matching grants to downtown businesses.
However, when the TIF district’s boundaries were set when it was created in 2005, some Main Street buildings were excluded, which means their owners are not now eligible for building grants. Those include Deerfield Coffeehouse at 50 N. Main St., the former Aplin & Ringsmuth law office at 51 N. Main St., and a building at 44 N. Main St. that’s owned by Kristin Gullickson-Wild and currently occupied by the Hemp House.
Joe Howard, co-owner of the Deerfield Coffeehouse, attended the Sept. 9 Village Board meeting, asking if the boundaries could be amended so that his and other buildings can be eligible for grants.
Alan Mikkelson, owner of Badger Realty Group, that’s listing the former law office, also attended the Sept. 9 meeting, advocating for all three buildings to be added.
Village Administrator Elizabeth McCredie responded that it would cost about $7,500 in legal and administrative fees to make that change. The businesses, McCredie and Village Board members said, would have to show that the improvements made to their sites could generate enough of a rise in property value to recoup that cost in new increment – the amount of new property tax revenue generated after the improvements are made.
McCredie said if the Village Board agrees to the change, it would probably take about three months to work through the process.
Village officials said the three buildings were originally planned to be included in TIF District #3 but were removed because state law limits the percentage of a municipality’s total equalized property value that can be tied up in TIF districts at any one time. The Main Street properties were removed to meet that requirement, officials said.
McCredie said the request has been put on the Village Board’s Sept. 23 meeting agenda, for further discussion. She asked Howard, prior to that meeting, to submit further information on the scope of what the coffeehouse is envisioning for improvements to its building and how that might generate enough new tax increment to fund the change process.