Farm responds to claim trucks damaged town road

by Rodney Schroeter
of The Review staff

SHERMAN — The Town Board met Tues., August 29, a week earlier than the customary first Tuesday of the month to accommodate scheduling conflicts.

At its previous meeting, the board decided that Vorpahl’s Farm Inc. is responsible for $9,285.43 in damages to Town Line Road caused by Vorpahl’s manure semi tankers. At that meeting, Jason Vorpahl said he would prepare a response to the board for its next meeting.

At the board meeting, Vorpahl read the following statement:

“1. The road base on the town of Sherman half was substandard from the beginning.

“2. The town of Fredonia west half remained undamaged.

“3. No other roads were damaged, other than the one half of Town Line Road.

“4. The road was not posted to begin with. This is a failure on the part of the township.

“5. It is easy in hindsight to blame truck traffic for failure of the road. No one knew it was going to fail until it did.

“6. The reason at the time for choosing to take Town Line Road instead of (Count) II was to keep as much agricultural traffic as possible out of the village.

“7. As far as the argument that we used Town Line Road again a second time after the failure, it’s not the same situation. The first time, semi-trucks were used. The second time, smaller straight trucks were used. It wasn’t exactly the same thing.

“8. The bill for $9,028.20 has been turned over to Vorpahl Farms Inc.’s insurance company. They contend that we are not liable for any damage.

“9. In lieu of working with the insurance company, we are willing to make a $5,000 donation to the town of Sherman.”

Town Chairman William Goehring thanked Vorpahl for the statement. Goehring reminded the board and Vorpahl of Wisconsin statute 86.02, which states any person damaging any highway shall be liable for treble damages. Goehring handed the board and Vorpahl a copy of that statute. There was discussion between Vorpahl and the board with points raised that had been raised in previous discussions.

Goehring said the board would discuss this matter later that night in closed session. However, the attorney the board wanted in the discussion could not be at the meeting, and the board did not go into closed session.

Since the attorney was not present, the board gave its consent for Goehring, if an agreeable settlement could not be reached, to consult with Matt Parmentier of the law firm Edgarton, St. Peter, Petak and Rosenfeldt, a Fond du Lac firm with much experience working with towns. Since the town’s attorney has represented Vorpahl in the past, consulting with Parmentier would avoid a possible conflict of interest.

•••

Dave Borchardt and Dave Eggert gave the board background on the Country Meadow Estates subdivision.

“Our project was a 31-acre development that we started 10 years ago,” Borchardt said. After acquiring county and state permits, passing wetland reviews and water studies, everything was ready to begin, he said. But about 2008, “the financial crisis happened, and we decided not to pursue recording of the plat,” so the project was set aside.

“As the economy continued to hemorrhage, there wasn’t a lot of activity,” Borchardt said. Only two certified survey maps were done. The two lots were sold. Only one has been built on, but Borchardt said a new home might be built on the other lot soon.

Much of the project’s infrastructure is planned, Borchardt said. They are now working with Sherman’s Plan Commission to re-evaluate the developer agreement.

Borchardt said one prospective buyer would like to get a new home started this year. He asked, “Is it at all possible, if we need a special meeting of the Town Board, to meet on the project if the recommendations are cleared through the Plan Commission?”

James Ellis, chair of the Plan Commission, was in the audience. Goehring asked Ellis if the commission could complete its review and come to a recommendation in one meeting. Ellis asked about some issues still needing to be addressed at the county level. Borchardt said those issues are very minor.

The board and the two developers discussed at length what would happen to the project, and who would be responsible for it, were both developers to meet untimely ends. Borchart and Eggert replied that there is life insurance in place and reassured the board that the town would not need to manage the project if that tragedy struck.

Ellis said he’d like to have the town’s engineer review the changes from the original developer agreement. Ellis named a few other issues needing review.

Eggert said their engineer could be present at the next Plan Commission meeting to answer questions.

The board was open to a special meeting.

In other town business:

Clerk/Treasurer Rhonda Klatt suggested a review of fees for conditional use permits (CUPs) and rezoning applications. She said those fees for Sherman are quite low, compared to those in other municipalities.

Goehring said such fees should be as close to the town’s actual costs to process them. No action was taken.

Goehring announced that Abbott Drive is now open.

The board unanimously approved:

. Postponing a market update for the assessment cycle by at least a year. Goehring said he thought it was a good idea.

. Sending a letter to a property owner, reminding him that terms of a CUP he has require the razing of a house on Knuth Road.

. Adding a line item to the budget for a savings account for new Town Board facilities.

. Taking responsibility for plowing snow at the Country Meadow Estates subdivision, once the first two layers of asphalt are in place.


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