An article in the July 18 Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent incorrectly said Cambridge High School is in the Town of Oakland. In fact, it is in the Village of Cambridge. The error is corrected in the online version of the article below.
The Cambridge Village Board is sticking to its stance that Blue Jay Way, in front of Cambridge High School, is the Town of Oakland’s responsibility to reconstruct.
The Village Board discussed at length at a meeting on July 9, how to approach an upcoming July 31 joint meeting with Oakland, regarding Blue Jay Way.
In the end, the Village Board voted 6-1, with Eric Wittwer dissenting, to communicate to Oakland that “they are responsible for rehabilitation of the road,” and that the village’s responsibility ends with routine maintenance like snowplowing and filling potholes.
“It’s not a village road, it’s a Town of Oakland road,” Village Board member Paula Hollenbeck said.
“I don’t want to spend one penny of our taxpayers’ money on their road,” Village Board member Kathy Cunningham agreed.
“Let them pave the whole thing,” Village Board member Sue Christianson agreed.
Wittwer said, however, he believes the village should take the dispute with the town to mediation, which could cost about $3,000, potentially split between the town and the village. A decision from a mediator may not be binding.
Other board members suggested that there could be room for compromise, with the cost of a basic $60,000 mill and overlay split between the two entities. In the end though, everyone but Wittwer voted to send a message to Oakland that the entire project cost should be borne by the town.
The Village Board discussed but did not act on whether to enter into mediation with the town, although some board members suggested they might be in favor of it.
“We have to somehow resolve this and we are not making any progress the way we are doing it right now,” Village Board member Ted Kumbier said.
The Village Board’s stance aligned with comments made by Tom TeBeest, a project engineer with Town & Country Engineering of Madison, the village’s contracted engineer, at the July 9 meeting. TeBeest said in his opinion that the village’s responsibility for Blue Jay Way ends with routine maintenance.
“The agreement is clear enough to say with certainty that it only means snowplowing and pothole filling,” TeBeest said. “That’s how I would interpret it. Someone else might argue differently but that’s the stance that I would take and I think that is reasonable.”
“If you do anything more than just continue to maintain the road you’re doing the town a favor,” TeBeest continued.
However, Village Administrator Lisa Moen shared at the meeting an email from Oakland, in which the town said an attorney it recently hired defines “maintenance,” as in fact including periodic road reconstruction. Thus, the town attorney said, the village should bear the entire cost under a joint road maintenance agreement adopted in 2006, and renewed in 2016, signed by both town and village officials.
Estimates have put the cost of simply milling and overlaying the street with new asphalt – to town standards — at about $60,000. Another option is a little higher quality of repaving, TeBeest said, that could cost $85,000.
At the other end of the cost spectrum is a full reconstruction to village standards with new pavement, the addition of curb and gutter and sidewalks and new storm water, sanitary sewer and water infrastructure under the road, at total cost of up to $850,000.
Lending complexity to the dispute is the recognition — on both sides — that the road is in the Town of Oakland, but that all but two homes along Blue Jay Way have been annexed into the village. That results, some Village Board members have argued, in property owners who pay village taxes having to live on a substandard road.
The town forwards to the village the road aid it gets each year from the state of Wisconsin, for maintaining Blue Jay Way.
Cambridge High School is in the Village of Cambridge.
The Village Board also on July 9 split on whether to prepare for the upcoming joint meeting with Oakland in closed session. After some discussion, board members voted 4-3 to stay in open session. Hollenbeck, Christianson and Cunningham voted to postpone the discussion to the next regular meeting, and to then talk in closed session.
“I am not comfortable talking about negotiations in open session,” Hollenbeck said.
Wittwer, Kris Breunig, Kumbier and Villlage President Mark McNally voted in favor, however, of remaining in open session, and to keep talking about Blue Jay Way at the July 9 meeting.
McNally said Oakland has chosen to talk recently about the situation in open session.
“I have been informed that the Town of Oakland is not putting any of this in private session, it’s all out there, whatever they are doing. And so, it seems for us to go into closed session when they are not, when we are talking about the same road… it seems like we are trying to hide something,” McNally said. “ I think this should all be done in open session.”
TeBeest said the water main under Blue Jay Way was installed in the 1960s and is owned by the village The sewer line under the street, meanwhile, was installed in 1982 and is owned by the town. He said the existing water and sewer utility infrastructure wouldn’t have to be replaced now. It could last another 40-50 years but replacing it while the road is already torn up is something to consider, he said.
Some Village Board members have suggested voiding the 2006 agreemenrt, something Oakland said in April that it’s not interested in doing.
McNally also said he’s concerned about going into non-binding arbitration deadlocked, where one side says “’well, we don’t like that decision that was made so we’re not going to live with it.’”
“The only way that makes sense is if we’re willing to go with the binding decision,” he said.
Moen said in her recent conversations with state officials who would facilitate the arbitration, she was told that the outcome can be surprising.
“They do look at the whole picture and may pull other things in to get both parties to agree,” Moen said.
There would be an option, in that process, to throw out the existing agreement and to start over, Moen noted.
Maybe, Hollenbeck said the two sides would then have an opportunity to negotiate “an agreement that’s actually workable.”
In other matters on July 9 the Village Board:
• Heard that its newly created Economic Development Committee is expected to meet for the first time in August;
• Recognized former Village President Steve Struss for his more than 25 years of public service to Cambridge. “It’s been a privilege really to serve this community. I didn’t realize it’s been 25 years. Time flies,” Struss said in accepting the award. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
• Heard but didn’t take any action on a proposal from the Cambridge Area Resource Team (CART) to rent the current village office space that’s soon being vacated. Village staff are moving soon into space at the Amundson Community Center that once housed the Cambridge library. The former library space is currently being remodeled. The village and CART expect to continue talking about the idea in August and September.
• Voted 4-2, with Hollenbeck and Cunningham voting no and Wittwer abstaining, to pay out 100 percent of unused vacation days to village staff at the end of each year. Board members split on whether that amounted to an end-of-year pay bonus for employees who don’t take vacation, and some said it would discourage employees from taking vacation. “We expect you to take your vacation. That is all part of the work-life balance,” Cunningham said.
“I don’t know of any private entity that pays out 100 percent of vacation time at the end of the year,” Hollenbeck said.
• Heard an updated on the progress at the former Melster Candies Company site.
A Feb. 28 notice from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources directed the village to remove debris that it had learned may be illegally buried at the site. The DNR said in the letter that it had information that “non-approved” materials such as ash, insulation, PVC, metal, and pipe fragments from Melster’s demolition may be buried.
The village has since hired an environmental attorney and an engineering firm to help it progress through the coming potential cleanup process.
The next step, village officials said, is to take soil borings on the property owned by the village and on property owned by At Home Again, an adjacent assisted living center. At Home Again and the village are currently working on an agreement to allow the village onto the assisted living center’s property.
Both Village Administrator Lisa Moen and Joseph DeYoung, a project manager with MSA Professional Services in Madison, said recent meetings with the DNR have been positive.
“I have had nothing but cooperation from the DNR and they are fully understanding that you are… looking for a final resolution,” DeYoung said. “As long as you don’t ignore it I don’t think the DNR is going to be the issue.”