12/12/2019- The Town of Stephenson has dropped out of providing winter road maintenance for some county forest road residents and now those homeowners want Marinette County officials to step in and do something about it. Around eight families on County Forest Road 1630 were recently given notice that the Town of Stephenson will no longer plow what they deem to be “private roads” and informed the residents they’d instead need to contract with an outside entity for snow removal. However, many of those people are pushing back saying county forest roads, by definition, are public, county-owned roads, and therefore the county should assume winter maintenance responsibilities. Linda Krzewina maintains that seeking a private company to plow is not only inconvenient and costly to residents, it’s also illegal.
“I talked to my insurance company right up to the corporate office. They do not cover illegal acts. It is illegal for a private citizen to plow public roads, simple as that. They told me that if I plow that and endanger anybody, I could be sued for everything I own and in return, I would definitely turn around and sue the county because it’s their obligation to plow the road that tax payers live on year-round.”
It’s not currently in the County’s policy to provide winter maintenance on forest roads and last month Marinette County Corporation Counsel Gail Mattison was asked to weigh in on the matter. County Administrator John Lefebvre informed the Infrastructure Committee Wednesday he received her written legal opinion and it states the County cannot be held liable for choosing not to plow county forest roads.
“‘After researching the issue, discussions with the DOT, and our insurance carrier’ and this is her (Mattison) talking, not me, ‘it is my opinion the County has no obligation to plow county forest roads. There are certain requirement for county forest road eligibility for state aids, however, how each county maintains its own roads is left up to the county to determine.'”
No action was taken on the topic yesterday, but the Infrastructure Committee scheduled a special meeting for next Tuesday to discuss the matter again and explore alternative solutions for the affected residents.