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Hot debate over Hammond streets solved -- for now

After months of debate, the question of who owns Bushnell, Belshazzar and Muldoon streets at the southern end of Hammond near the railroad tracks will finally be answered.

At the Hammond Village Board meeting Monday night in a 4-2 vote the board allocated $2,000 to cover fees for surveying the streets and deeding the land to the village. Trustees Mary Rivard and Sandy Brecht voted no. Trustee Mark Benton was absent.

The board also voted, with Rivard dissenting, to sign an interim agreement for snowplowing services for those streets until the area is surveyed.

Rivard was vocal in her opposition of the motion. Brecht said she’s concerned the board is setting a precedent for people who want alleys maintained, since Muldoon Street is not much more than an alley.

Village attorney Tim Scott told the board to consider some key points before making a decision:

-- The village is not required by law to assume responsibility for the streets, because it has been maintaining what it thought was its streets all these years.

-- Many laws that apply to town roads (like the one above) don’t apply to village streets.

-- “You cannot say ‘we own this now because we did A, B and C,’” Scott said.

-- Carl and Mary Hemenway cannot deed the land to the village with no legal documentation.

-- Once it’s platted, the village must accept and approve the plat. If it receives money from the state for maintaining those streets after the deed transfer, then it must maintain them.

-- The village cannot landlock homeowner Juel Pettis because the village never owned the land. Therefore, the village cannot vacate land it doesn’t own and landlock a homeowner.

-- Adverse possession doesn’t come into play here because usually it’s someone saying they’re going to take over land due to maintaining it or making improvements. In this case, the people want the village to take it.

Trustee Lynn Pabst suggested the residents pay for the surveying. Village President Tony Bibeau said they shouldn’t have to and made the motion to earmark $2,000 for surveying and deed transfer.

Brecht voted no after saying she was worried she’d “piss off the whole town” if she voted in favor of the surveying and deed transfer.

Carl Hemenway told the board: “We just want to make it right. This is our home.”

Library renovation

The board heard presentations from two engineering firms, Ayres Associates of Eau Claire and General Engineering Company of Portage, about performing a needs assessment on the Hammond Community Library.

Library director Michelle Johnson said she wants to start seeking funds to renovate the building and make the second floor a usable space.

To do so, a needs assessment must be done before applying for grants, Johnson said.

The assessment would analyze all aspects of the building, such as the structure, plumbing, electrical, the heating and cooling system, the feasibility of adding restrooms and an elevator, and turning the second floor into a community gathering space.

The assessment would also tell the board how to bring the building up to code.

“I would just like to go ahead and be able to start the project and show the community we are a vital resource,” Johnson said. “I agree with Gail (the engineer from General Engineering Company) that ‘libraries represent the living room of the community in a digital age.’”

Scott asked for clarification on both proposals, such as insurance, limitations of professional liability and prices for unforeseen costs, including removing hazardous materials and grant writing. He also suggested each firm review the other’s proposal so they have a chance to offer similar services.

The board will review the proposals at its Jan. 27 meeting. Each proposal cost is roughly $9,000.

Five-year public improvement plan

Greg Adams of Ayres Associates presented a tentative five-year street improvement projects plan. The plan is required by the state so grant money awarded is accounted for, Adams said.

The village was recently awarded a grant of almost $16,400 from the Municipal Street Improvement Program of St. Croix County. While the grant won’t cover the entire cost of any one project, it will be a start.

The projects Adams listed include complete reconstructions of:

-- Third and Larcom Streets from Vine to Davis Street in 2014

-- Davis Street from the intersection of Broadway Street (Highway 12) to the intersection of Second Street in 2015

-- Vine Street from First to Second Streets in 2016

-- Second Street from Ridgeway to Davis Street in 2016

-- Park Street from Davis Street (Highway 12) to Kline Drive (one block) in 2017

-- Norton Street from Davis Street (Highway 12) to the eastern dead end of Norton in 2018

-- Main Street from Wolf to Norton Street in 2018

Each reconstruction would include replacement of water, sanitary and storm sewer, with new curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Adams said this plan “is not set in stone.” The $16,400 grant has a two-year window to be used. It must be used for asphalt. The money is not received until the work is completed, Adams said.

Adams also looked into the feasibility of the village redoing its portion of County Road J when the county repaves a one-mile stretch of J west from the village limits this summer.

That section of J runs through the village’s industrial park. Improvements are needed to deal with growing semi and truck traffic.

The county gave the village the opportunity to redo the village segment of J at the same time to potentially save money.

According to a proposal Adams put together for the project in 2010, the entire cost of reconstructing the base, widening the road to accommodate semis turning onto County Road T and adding new turn lanes, curbs, sewer and gutters would be roughly $687,000.

Part of that cost could be covered by money collected from tax increment districts (TIDs) 5 and 6, Adams said.  Both TIDs end in 2017. This means the project costs must be incurred before that happens, Adams said.

According to Wikipedia, “Tax increment financing (TIF) is a method to use future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements, which are projected to create the conditions for said gains. The completion of a public or private project often results in an increase in the value of surrounding real estate, which generates additional tax revenue.”

The issue will be revisited at a future meeting.

In other business

-- The board voted to allow the library to carry $15,000 in extra funds from 2013 over to the 2014 budget. Johnson wants to use the money to pay for the library building needs assessment.

-- An operator’s license was approved for Tamika Topp.

-- The board approved employee vacation requests procedures.

-- An IT contract was approved with Task Technologies.

-- The board voted to replace Clerk-Administrator Sandi Hazer’s and Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Angie Blodgett’s computers for $725 each with $190 24-inch LED wide format monitors with speakers; to upgrade the police department’s computers with Windows 7; and to trade in Hazer’s old printer for $100.

-- The board approved a personal letter thanking Blodgett for her contributions to the village.

-- At the Dec. 30 meeting, the board voted to replace a metal impeller in a sewer treatment plant pump that froze up for $4,985. The part was more than seven years old.

-- At the Dec. 30 meeting, the board voted to buy a broom attachment for the village skid steer at a cost of $4,000. A new one would cost $6,000.