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Stillwater bridge dominates county board discussions during Aug. 2 meeting

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A presentation by a lobbyist for the Coalition for the St. Croix River Crossing was cross-examined by members of the St. Croix County board dominating the first hour of the supervisors' regular meeting Tuesday morning, Aug. 2.

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"We believe most people want this bridge, opponents are not as great in numbers but are well organized with national funding and influence," said Mike Wilhelmi, Stillwater, of Campaign to Build the Bridge.

Wilhelmi called for a wide range of support to put pressure on the U.S. Congress to exempt the Stillwater bridge crossing project from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act so construction can finally get off the ground after some 50 years of starts and stops.

The county has gone on record in support of a new bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging lift bridge in Stillwater.

Wilhelmi said the total project is $633 million that includes $350 from Minnesota and $280 million from Wisconsin. Each side pays for its roadway improvements and approaches to the bridge.

"Every dime we need has been identified and set aside, we just need congressional approval," he said.

The location of the new bridge would cross over from the Wisconsin shore to the south edge of Stillwater near the sewage treatment plant and the power plant, he said.

Wilhelmi said time could run out if the project isn't started soon because Minnesota has some federal dollars that will expire in three years. "We need to get moving this fall," he said. It is estimated to take three years to finish the project.

Supervisor Buck Malick said, "Only high speed freeway type bridges were considered when a three-lane bridge would make more sense."

Supervisor Buzz Marzolf said, "I'm not against a bridge, I'm against the magnitude of this bridge. It costs so much and serves so few."

Wilhelmi said 18,000 cars cross the current lift-bridge each day.

Supervisor Steve Hermsen said, "It's an extremely expensive project." He would prefer something "much, much smaller in cost."

Supervisor Lorin Sather ended the discussion with a plea for support. "I think we need to keep in mind: It was 1951 when the first study on the bridge was made. This is our last best chance, this is a bridge we need."

For more information on coalition contact: www.stcroxicrossing.org. or Michael Wilhelmi at stcroixcrossing@gmail.com

County Board notes:

  • The board set the next regular board meeting set for Sept. 6.
  • Appointed Mary Ellen Bol to the Local Emergency Planning Commission.
  • Approved the plat of the German Settlement Cemetery 17-0, Lorin Sather temporarily indisposed.
  • Approved a resolution supporting federal funding to community action agency programs by a 17-1 margin. James Stauffer voted no.
  • Unanimously approved a resolution eliminating a previous action calling for a hiring freeze.
  • Authorized the reallocation of bond proceeds by an 18-0 margin.
  • Adopted a measure to set a policy for drafting and reviewing a resolution 17-1, Stauffer voted against.
  • Passed a resolution approving a labor agreement between the county and the police and law enforcement and unions by an 18-0 margin.
  • Unanimously approved amendment to ordinances applying to Chapter 17-zoning.
  • Tabled a resolution until August 2012 regarding the St. Croix County Health Center business plan that calls for consideration of a new 50-bed facility by a 12-6 margin. Alfred Schrank, Brian Hurtgen, Roger Larson, Fred Horne, Esther Wentz and Buzz Marzolf voted against tabling the matter.

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    Jon Echternacht
    (715) 808-8602
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