Monday's Cassian town board meeting featured a brief, heated exchange over ATV/UTV usage on town roads.
While several town roads are open as ATV/UTV routes, other town roads are access-only, meaning they may be traveled via ATV/UTV but only for the purpose of accessing a trail. Town secretary Nikki Augustine read the ATV ordinance in its entirety Monday, for the benefit of the board and those in attendance. While the board members appeared satisfied with the ordinance as recently amended, others were not.
"People can come and see me at my house, because I live on a route. But I can't go to their house," Scott Soukup of the Cassian ATV Club told the board. "That doesn't make any sense. That's not right."
Because Soukup lives on a road designated as a route, someone could come from an access road onto that route, but he is unable to leave the route to take an access road to see his friends.
Soukup's frustration led to a back-and-forth with town supervisor Dick Herman.
"There's problems already, Scott," Herman said. "They're already staring to..."
"They've been doing that for years," Soukup said. "There were people ripping up stuff all over before that. That has nothing to do with us. Don't penalize us for those kids."
"We're not penalizing you," Herman said.
"Yes, you are," Soukup said. "You just brought that up - people are doing this - well, they've been doing that for years."
"We've designated several routes and they are not following the rules already," Herman said.
"Woodboro just opened all their roads, Nokomis is all open, Crescent is all open," Soukup replied. "What is the problem here?"
"Do we want snowmobiles and everything? Should we just let everything go on the roads or what?" Herman asked. He noted that snowmobilers are already asking to use the roadways rather than go through the hassle of working with private land owners to gain approval to use trails through their land.
"I pay taxes here," Soukup said. "I should be able to ride on the road."
"I pay taxes here, too," Herman replied.
"The idea behind the routes, to open up the routes, from my perspective, was to create an awareness level and to see how many people actually want to ride ATVS, and so that maybe some of the landowners back here would open up some of their land so we can actually have a trail system," said supervisor Ed Phebus.
"It will never happen," Soukup said.
"It will never happen because nobody wants to do any work to see if they can develop that." Phebus said. He, too, stated snowmobilers are looking to ride the roadways as opposed to dealing with private land owners over a trail system on private land.
"What was the object of getting them (the trails) open if I can't ride over to my buddy's house, but he can ride to my house?" Soukup asked.
"Scott, when we did this, you knew exactly what we did," Herman said. "You knew the routes and everything."
"Nobody's complaining that Scott rode over to Joe's house, OK?" Phebus said. "Nobody's going to say anything about that. The problem is dad in a UTV with three kids in there with no helmets on. It has to be self-policing. That's why we're doing this trial, to see how self-policing it is. I'm not willing to open all the roads in Cassian just so we can all ride to our friends' house."
"I think we need to give it more time," Augustine said.
"For what?" Soukup said.
"I think we need to get it all on a map, so we can see what is or isn't being abused," Augustine said. "If we get positive feedback, there's nothing saying we can't open all the roads."
"Do you want me to bring a hundred people to the next meeting?" Soukup said. "I'll bring them in a heartbeat."
"I don't think we need that," Augustine replied.
"Why?" Soukup asked. "Because three people say no? You're there because of us."
"I agree," Herman said.
"Scott, nobody's saying you can't ride to somebody's house," Phebus said. "No one is going to pull you over for it."
"But now you're saying it's illegal," Soukup said. "So you're going to tell me I can do this even if it's illegal?"
"People do it anyways," Phebus said. "The snowmobilers do it, too. We know that."
It was evident the board is not willing to change its mind regarding routes and access roads at this time. Augustine suggested giving the current route system at least a year to "see how it goes" before making any changes or thinking about allowing free ATV/UTV travel on all town roads.
A question was asked about the possibility of approaching the county about allowing ATV/UTV use on Highway K. Chairman Tim Augustine said it was a possibility in the future, but the board wants to see how things transpire with the existing routes before attempting to add more. The possibility of petitioning to cross Highway 51 was also discussed, but it was unclear if the county would approve such a crossing.
In other business, the board approved moving all of the town's banking to River Valley State Bank in Tomahawk. Treasurer Loretta Morrow presented information to the board showing the town would receive a better interest rate on its money as well as pay less in fees with this bank. Her original hesitation with using River Valley, she said, was the FDIC insurance only covers $250,000, leaving town funds vulnerable. Now, however, a state program also covers $400,000, making using River Valley a less risky proposition.
"What River Valley does is, quote, unquote, farm out our money, so that it is protected," she said. During tax season, Morrow said she would also be able to take advantage of some equipment that would allow her to run checks through from her home directly into the town's account, meaning the town would start earning interest on those deposits immediately.
Jeanne Merwin was on hand to present information regarding the town's Meals on Wheels program. Meals are available at the town hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 11:30 a.m. Meals are also provided to shut-ins in the town on those days. Each meal is $3.50 for persons 60 and older and $6.65 for those under 60. Those interested should contact Merwin at least one day in advance at 715-277-4190. More information about the program can be found on the town website under the "organizations" tab. Merwin is also looking for route drivers and would like anyone interested in volunteering to give her a call.
Chairman Tim Augustine provided an update on the Rocky Run culvert project and asked the board to approve a Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) loan in the amount of $107, 953.
Last month, the board was made aware of a county program that might help with the costs associated with the project. The town applied for funds from the county and will receive a reimbursement of over $36,000. Herman expressed some initial concern over borrowing the full amount for the project. Phebus expressed the same concern and wondered if some town money could be used rather than borrowing the entire amount. Augustine said he would rather borrow the full amount and pay the loan off early, for which there would be no penalty, to ensure the town has reserve funds should another issue arise that requires immediate attention.
There was some discussion on the best options and the board voted unanimously to borrow the full amount with the understanding the loan could be paid off early. A1 Excavating informed Augustine its workers plan to start the project the week of Oct. 16 and finish it the same week.
MSA, he said, will inform all affected parties as well, as emergency services, as to when the road closure will take place.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bjoki@lakeland times.com.
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