BEATTY TWP— Bruce “Arch” Archibald was excited when he learned that his township on the west end of Lake Vermilion had signed a contract to pave the half-mile-long gravel road near Wakemup Bay …
BEATTY TWP— Bruce “Arch” Archibald was excited when he learned that his township on the west end of Lake Vermilion had signed a contract to pave the half-mile-long gravel road near Wakemup Bay where he and his wife Nancy maintain a summer home. But when the paving stopped at the driveway of a township supervisor, a tenth-of-a mile short of his own paved driveway, Archibald cried foul.
He showed up at a town board meeting in August, to find out why the last 488 feet of Wakemup Shores Road wasn’t included in the paving plan, but received shifting explanations from township officials when he asked about the decision.
Earl Grano, a town supervisor who oversees roads for the township, said he can find no evidence that the township ever assumed responsibility for maintaining, much less paving, the final 488 feet of the road. He said the township portion of the formerly private road extends only four-tenths of a mile from Luthey Road, at least according to records he’s been able to uncover from St. Louis County. That takes it as far as the driveway of Gene Bergerson, a township supervisor, where the paving crew from KGM contractors ended their work earlier this summer. Beyond that, said Grano during an interview with the Timberjay, “it appears to be a private driveway.”
Yet St. Louis County and Beatty Township records, obtained by the Timberjay, say otherwise. On May 10, 2005, the town board approved a resolution, known as Order #798808, under which the township assumed authority for the maintenance of Wakemup Shores Road. The town board had acted based upon a petition by the residents of the road, and made their decision following a public hearing, and an inspection of the road by township officials to ensure that it met the specifications required for a public road. The resolution noted that “all the property owners on Wakemup Shores Road had granted the township a 66-foot right-of-way for the purpose of road maintenance.”
Those landowners included Karen Karni, who lives at the end of the road, one driveway past the Archibalds, as well as Ken and Sandra Keister, who sold their property to the Archibalds several years ago.
The road easement was even surveyed and a map of the easement, obtained by the Timberjay, shows the township road extending well past Bergerson’s property line, right up to the Archibalds’ driveway.
The town board’s decision to halt blacktopping of the road at the home of a town supervisor is a troubling coincidence to be sure— one that didn’t escape the attention of township officials themselves. They point out that Bergerson opted to abstain from the discussion and vote on the issue, out of concern for an appearance of a conflict of interest. “I understand how this looks,” said Grano. “We have to be very careful over this.”
Township officials insist there was no favoritism, just a belief at the time that the township lacked jurisdiction beyond Bergerson’s driveway. Grano said he based his belief on township maintenance records, noting that the township hasn’t maintained that portion of the road for years. He said the township has paid St. Louis County for snowplowing four-tenths of a mile, even though the road, as defined and mapped, extends just over half a mile. St. Louis County does plow the road all the way to the end, however, turning around at the base of the Archibalds’ driveway. But Grano said he assumed that additional plowing was done for free, merely as a convenience for the driver.
That lack of maintenance, according to Grano, made the final stretch of Wakemup Shores too narrow to blacktop in either case. “The end is so substandard, even a child could see it’s sub-standard,“ said Grano.
But, if so, it would presumably be the township that failed in its responsibility to bring it up to necessary standards, notes Archibald.
Whether a misunderstanding or something else, Archibald said he just wants to be treated like everyone else on the road, who now have the benefits of a paved road right to their driveways. “I’d just like to see that last 488 feet of road asphalted and have everyone walk away happy,” said Archibald. “I suppose it may not happen that way.”
The issue will be back on the agenda, however, at the Beatty Town Board meeting, set for Tuesday, Oct. 11. “We’ll continue to look into this,” said Grano. “We want to do what’s right.”