Town Board gives county highway complex permit

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The proposed $25 million county Highway Department complex cleared another hurdle Tuesday, but not without some questioning.

The Town Board unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the proposed office and operations center at the southwest corner of State 67 and County J Tuesday after it was questioned by several town residents.

County Transportation Director Greg Schnell, Building Services Director Jim TeBeest and County Surveyor/Highway Engineer Ed Harvey detailed plans for the project, which will consolidate Highway Department operations and equipment currently in Sheboygan, Plymouth and Elkhart Lake at one location.

Schnell explained that the first phase of the project, scheduled for next year, will house the plows and trucks from the Elkhart Lake and Plymouth highway sheds, which will then be closed.

Phase 2, set for 2018, will be to construct offices and shops to replace the current department headquarters on the west side of Sheboygan.

Several town residents raised questions about water use by the complex, traffic impacts and more.

Schnell said the complex will hook into an existing sewer line from Rocky Knoll to the city of Plymouth’s sewer and wastewater system. It will also rely on Rocky Knoll, which has a water tower supplied by two existing wells, for its water supply.

“The water tower at Rocky Knoll has a 200,000 gallon capacity, which is bigger than the village of Waldo’s water tower,” Schnell said. “There’s plenty of capacity for both of us.”

Town resident Brian Niemi questioned whether there had been any study by the Department of Natural Resources on the possible impact of water use by the new complex on surrounding wells and water table.

“We’re relying on you guys to make the right choice to protect our wells,” he stated.

Schnell replied that, according to the project consultants, such study is needed since it will utilize existing wells and water tower.

“Rocky Knoll is not even using half of what’s in their water tower,” he stated.

Several in the audience said they had been told that Rocky Knoll’s sewer line to the city was at or near capacity.

Schnell responded that such reports, if true, were at an earlier time when Rocky Knoll’s resident population was much larger than it is today. He again assured residents that the line is sufficient to handle the new center’s needs.

State 67 resident Terry Wadel questioned what the traffic impact would be of the new facility.

Schnell responded that the facility’s main entrance would be on County J, not State 67 – although there would be a service drive on State 67. As part of the project, a deceleration lane will be added on State 67 between the complex entrance and the intersection with State 67 for trucks and equipment to get in and out without blocking traffic on County J.

Niemi and Wadel both questioned the proposed location.

“I agree with the consolidation, I don’t agree with the location,” Niemi stated.

“It’s really sad when people saw the dollar signs and sold this prime ag land,” Wadel added.

“It’s not prime ag, it’s marginal land,” Town Chairman Warren Luedke responded.

Niemi called on the board to ask more questions about what he called “the biggest conditional use permit in the history of the town.”

In response to a question on what benefit the new complex will have for the town, Supervisor Gene Blindauer said, “This is a county-wide thing. We have to look beyond Plymouth. This helps the county run cost-effectively.”

Luedke agreed, stating it has no financial impact on the town, although adding that it will put the Plymouth highway shed property back on the tax rolls when the county sells that as part of the consolidation.

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