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September 15, 2019

8/22/2019 7:26:00 AM
Oneida County Highway Department continues to mull capital improvement options

Brian Jopek
Lakeland Times Reporter

As Oneida County continues to look at capital improvements, one "big ticket" type item on the list of considerations will likely continue to be the future of the county's highway department property on Kemp Street in Rhinelander.

The county has plenty of options for the highway department including expansion, a relocation or continuing to spend money on a structure originally built in the early 1950s.

A few years ago, the county turned down a $2.3 million offer from Kwik Trip for the 14 acres of property.

However, during a committee meeting Aug, 16, Robb Jensen, chairman of the county board's highway committee, said he's heard Kwik Trip is still interested in the property.

"My understanding is ... I'm not sure if it's 'OK, here's the offer from back in 2014,'" he said. "One of the things I wanted to do is take a look at just what was in that offer."

He said the reason the highway committee is looking at options regarding the department is because Oneida County board chairman Dave Hintz has asked for a recommendation from his committee.

"I'm trying to go through those steps and see what our recommendation would be," Jensen said. "I've got to get some rough data ... awhile back, there were three or four options. One of those was leave everything as is and continue to meet the air handling and lighting requirements within the existing structure."

The other options are an east- side building expansion Jensen believes would be a little larger than a west-side expansion "and then a brand new facility, which obviously got pricier than that."

"So, we want to find out where we are on those options," he said, adding that there is no deadline for when the committee must announce its recommendation.

"As of right now, there isn't (a deadline)," Jensen said. "My thought is we've got so much on the table in terms of trying to deal with the funding opportunities."

Jensen said capital improvement requests from different county departments will be a topic at a number of committee meetings this week.

"The highway committee has one there relative to upgrading the current facility," he said. "That's where there may be some discussion. How much do we continue to put into it? Maybe we need to make a decision on the other options before we move forward with whatever."

Jensen was quick to point out nothing has been finalized and acknowledged his opinion regarding the highway shop situation differs from others. He also mentioned Kwik Trip again.

"Eventually, it'll be interesting to see to what extent they're interested, if at all," Jensen said. "I can't say reviewing the old offer means this is the current offer. I don't know that."

Efforts to reach a Kwik Trip representative were unsuccessful as of press time.

Jensen said if that 14 acres could be put on the tax rolls for somewhere in the $8 million to $10 million range and the county could move its highway shop elsewhere, "I just think there's an advantage for us on that."

"But, everyone has their own opinion," he added.

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