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Town of River Falls: Board votes in favor of abandoning roads

A public hearing was held during the River Falls Town Board meeting last week to address road abandonment resolutions. The three roads that have been recommended for abandonment are: 730th Street (Mayor's Lane), 778th Street (Hillcrest Road) and 818th Street (Laurel Hill Drive).

Through its Roads Committee, the Town Board identified town roads that provide access to only a single residence. Therefore the Board has recommended that the roads be designated as private driveways.

One of the major reasons for citing these roads is because of the cost of maintaining them. The town collects approximately $1,200 in annual taxes for the three roads but the amount needed for major repairs and upgrades is $59,000. The Board also believes that the town would save money on snowplowing and routine maintenance.

Safety concerns were also discussed. Because of lack of space, it is difficult for the trucks to turn around when plowing the roads. Brian Weber with the highway department said, "Trucks are getting stuck because there is no turn-around room."

Randall Swenson, resident on 778th Street, was present at the hearing and stated reasons why he disagrees with the resolution to abandon his road. He stated that living on a town road was one of the reasons that he and his wife purchased the property and he is now worried about the property value. Swenson also said this decision will present a financial hardship for them because of the need to purchase a plow truck to keep the roads clear.

Supervisor Siri Smith said, "I am sympathetic to Randy and his wife. It was not our intent to wreck lives of residents (who) have to deal with purchasing snowplows".

Chairwoman Diana Smith agreed by saying, "This is not our intent, but we can't be in the business of plowing private driveways." Resident Beth Hammarback, also present and who resides with her husband Bernt on 818th Street, replied by saying, "They are not driveways now, they are now town roads."

Bernt Hammarback stated several reasons why their road should be an exception. He said the road meets all easement requirements and that it actually serves both of his lots, one of which he will eventually sell. He said that the road is travelled on by many trucks, UPS vehicles and school buses.

Hammarback disagrees that the town would save money by abandoning his road. He said, "There has been no maintenance (done) in 15 years, so how can the town claim they spend as much as they do?"

After listening to all the comments, Chairwoman Smith said, "It is our responsibility to grant this Board the discretion to decide to keep these as town roads or not. A lot of thought has gone into this."

Smith did say that she agreed with both Swenson and Hammarback that some work should be done on both streets. Smith requested that Weber gravel and grate 778th Street and break up the asphalt on 818th and turn it into a gravel road.

The Town Board voted unanimously to abandon 730th and 778th Street. All but one member voted to abandon 818th. The next step for the town is to obtain a highway order that will be issued and recorded. The residents must obtain driveway permits for their private drives.

In other action:

Weber presented his recommendations after reviewing all bids that came in for the new plow truck. The lowest bid received for the tandem body and equipment was from Universal Trucks, at $49,584. The lowest bid for the tandem truck was received from Astleford International which was $53,963. The Board voted in favor of these bids.

With a trade in value of $22,500 for the existing truck, Weber presented two options for financing. The Board voted to go with the slightly lower interest rate of 5.50% with a term of three years versus four, and annual payments of approximately $31,000.