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Village Board struggles with vacating streets issue

At least one Hammond resident was up in arms about the possibility of the Village of Hammond continuing to maintain Muldoon, Bushnell and Belshazzar Streets near the railroad tracks at the regular Village Board meeting Monday, Nov. 25. The dead-end streets are not platted and technically do not belong to the Village.

Former village trustee Erin McComb, 760 Broadway St., said she doesn’t like the idea of the Village Board setting a precedent of spending taxpayers’ money to benefit private homeowners.

The proposed cost of upgrading Bushnell to a minor street at 22-feet wide, with a 12-inch sand and 8-inch crushed rock base, along with the minimal two-inches of blacktop would be about $28,000, according to Greg Adams of Ayres Associates.

This would also include creating a hammerhead turnaround at the end of the street, if the triangular-shaped lot there was obtained by the village.

At the last board meeting Nov. 11, Adams was authorized to come up with a price estimate on widening Muldoon Street (a small alley-like street running parallel to the railroad tracks) and Bushnell Street. Four property owners border the streets in question: Juel Pettis, Carl and Mary Hemenway, Kyle Hemenway and the Rocks.

Village Trustee Mary Rivard said she contacted the League of Municipalities and was told the Village cannot legally incur expenses on what is considered a private issue.

“We’re being misled on this,” Rivard said. “Bushnell’s not a street. It’s a driveway. It’s totally illegal.”

McComb said the $28,000 proposed price tag is 4 percent of the Village’s annual budget being used for the betterment of three property owners who access their home through those byways.

“I say no,” McComb said. “I myself would be paying $62 out of my taxes for their betterment. I may as well ask you to maintain my property too, then.”

McComb said an alley in the Village is only accessible through her driveway, so a case could be made that the Village should maintain her driveway.

Village attorney Tim Scott agreed with Rivard. He said the only way to make the improvements legally would be acquire the right-of-way or the property through a deed.

“If you don’t accept that, then it’s over,” Scott said.

Rivard cited several instances over the years of residents who wanted the Village to make improvements or extend streets to certain properties, and they were told they had to pay for it themselves.

“If we do this, what do we do?” Rivard asked. “Pay them all back?”

Scott reminded the board that if it does accept the land from Carl and Mary Hemenway, nonconforming lots would be created, which could cause problems in the future.

Scott also said in a town, this would be considered a private issue and the landowners would have to come to a driveway agreement, especially because Pettis’ lot is “landlocked” and doesn’t border a public street if Bushnell is not considered one.

“When our equipment goes in there, we’re trespassing,” Rivard said.

Scott said the residents and board thought for years those streets were public, and have maintained them. Now that they know the truth, something must be decided.

Village Trustee Lynn Pabst suggested informing the residents the issue will be decided in two weeks at the next regular board meeting.

“We need to figure this out before snow-plowing season,” Pabst said.

“If we do these improvements, you must explain that they’ll be paying,” Rivard said.

The Board must decide whether to accept those byways as public streets and continue to maintain them, or to turn the matter over to the property owners to determine among themselves.

Other business:

--The price of dog licenses is going up to $12 for a spayed/neutered dog and $18 for a non-spayed/neutered dog.

--The board approved an $850 bid for a new front-deck mower from Value Implement.

-- Public Works employee Chuck Fedie is looking into the price of installing backflow preventers on the outside spigots of homes. The cheapest he has found so far is $7 a piece. Putting two in each house would cost the village $10,000 at that price.

--The Board voted to lease a new copier/fax/printer/scanner for the village clerk’s office. The lease will cost $149 a month, plus $75 a quarter for maintenance. This is considerable savings compared to what is in the clerk’s and deputy clerk’s offices now.

--Del Werner was appointed to the Police Review Board

--The Board passed a resolution adopting the St. Croix County All Hazards Mitigation Plan.

--The Board asked Police Chief Rick Coltrain to run background checks on all future operator’s license applicants.

--An operator’s license was approved for Rachel Williams, contingent on passing the background check.

--Village Trustee Sandy Brecht reported JJ’s Sports Bar & Grill still has not gotten a bigger dumpster.

“He is not being a good neighbor or a good business person,” Brecht said.

Others reported garbage falling out onto the street. Werner said he’s afraid someone will swerve around the garbage in the street and hit someone. JJ’s will continue to receive citations until a larger dumpster is in place.

“We have worked with him so much,” Coltrain said. “It’s very frustrating for me. I fell for it the first 73 times.”

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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