EAGLES NEST TWP- Citing public safety, fire department water access, and the public good, the Eagles Nest Town Board, here, voted 4-1 in favor of creating a new township road, Spruce Road, that will …
EAGLES NEST TWP- Citing public safety, fire department water access, and the public good, the Eagles Nest Town Board, here, voted 4-1 in favor of creating a new township road, Spruce Road, that will connect Bear Head State Park Road with Eagles Nest Lake One. The 700-foot-long gravel road will be built on a 66-foot wide corridor platted as Spruce Street back in 1928, which had never been built.
The road, once built, will provide easy water access for fire trucks to refill their tanks during a fire, as well as provide a water exit route for cabin owners to leave the area in case a wildfire cuts off road access, a concern in the township which has many narrow dead-end roads leading to lakefront cabins.
This issue sparked a lot of public comment, both prior to and during the April 20 meeting, which was held via video conference.
“We got about 100 written responses,” said Chairman Rich Floyd, “Most were signatures on a petition in favor.”
“This is not an issue that will be solved by a popular vote,” said Floyd. “But it bears pointing out that 78 responses were in favor and 19 were opposed. This tells me if we approve it, we are not grinding it down people’s throats. We are not doing something that nobody wants.”
Supervisor Skip Carlson was the lone vote against the measure.
“We have lawyers weighing in on both sides,” he said. “Who do we believe?”
Carlson expressed concerns with the cost of potential litigation. “We do have opinions from both lawyers,” he said, “ours and from the property owners ,and they differ completely.”
Carlson also said, as a retired fire department member, he did not agree that the access was needed for the fire department.
But other board members lent their support to the idea.
“This is clearly a good proposal,” said Kurt Soderberg, who noted the board needs to believe the attorney who represents the township. “This is something we are within our rights to do,” he said.
Supervisor Frank Sherman said, “I have read the attorney’s letters, and the other letters. The majority of the opposition is from two property owners who bought property next to a platted road as well as parkland, and as a secondary matter they’ve been improperly using it for themselves.”
Sherman said the township was talking about increasing the number of water-access spots for the fire department.
“That’s the primary point,” he said, “and as far as cost, it won’t break the township’s bank.
Litigation is a choice of people who are unhappy,” Sherman said. “It has nothing to do with the validity of their arguments legally.”
Supervisor DeAnne Schatz said her support was anchored behind her support of the fire department.
“This is a safety thing,” she said. “I know we don’t all have to play well in the sandbox, but this is 700 feet.”
Fire Chief Larry McCray weighed in on questions of the need for easy water supply access. He said the department’s engine and tender can hold a total of 2,800 gallons of water. “We need 400 gallons a minute to fight a fire in a cabin that is 30 by 40 feet in size,” he said. “Anything less than that means you can’t overcome the fire.” The department’s tender, at 1,800 gallons, gives them less than a five-minute supply of water. The department does maintain three static tanks of 10,000 gallons each and can set up drop tanks at a fire scene but needs time to ferry the water back and forth. Mutual aid also brings more water to a scene.
“The driving time to water is an issue,” he said, “the more options the better.”
McCray said the department has been working to develop more water access points throughout the township, contacting private lakeshore owners who may have suitable access for fire trucks. The town hall water supply is fed by a well, which cannot quickly refill a truck.
The board also heard public comment from 10 residents during the meeting, but limited speakers to one minute, with an additional 30 seconds allowed for a rebuttal after all speakers had their turn. Six residents spoke in favor of the proposal, citing safety concerns. Dave and Diane Kromer, who own the property adjacent to Spruce Road, asked why the board refused to set up a meeting with the property owners, something they had said they would do.
“It was a promise and it wasn’t done,” said Dave Kromer. He added that “anyone on the lake is going to let you land at their dock [in case of emergency].”
Diane Kromer said that the township possibly taking some of the parkland for a turnaround area does not fit into the original concept for use of that land.
“There are other sites that can be looked at,” she said.
A couple of residents questioned the cost of the project and asked where the money would come from. Ellie Fuller asked why the township wasn’t considering putting in more static hydrants or underground storage areas, wondering if that would be more economical.
The road, at approximately .12 miles, would add to the township’s existing 8.3 miles of locally-maintained roads. Estimated average annual maintenance costs, based on current township road spending, would be an additional $650 a year, said Floyd, though he noted the new road will be relatively flat and easy to maintain.
Estimated construction costs are $33,000 plus an estimated $3,000 in costs for attorney fees, permits, and surveying fees. The quote includes construction of a longer turnaround area than the town board ultimately approved. While the road area is already platted, the township will need to access some of the land designated as public “parkland” in the original plat to use as a T-turnaround area at the lakeshore that would extend 20 feet in both directions from the end of the roadway.
Town board members said the township has the money available in its current budget for the project and that its approval would not require any increase in the tax levy.