Blair passes on road use agreement

At the advice of its attorney, the Blair city council chose to let the road use agreement with Source Energy Services expire with the hopes of developing a new agreement that provides better protection for the city.

The agreement came up at the council’s regular December meeting, at which time attorney Mark Radcliffe advised the council not to sign it because, he said, it did not provide any protection for the city. After a month of doing more digging, Radcliffe’s advice did not change. Radcliffe said that in order to get compensated for any road damage, the city would have to be able to prove SES did the damage. 

“Which is very difficult to do because milk trucks drive on those roads, dump trucks drive on those roads, tractors drive on those roads and you’d end up litigating who really did the damage and that’s not very cost effective,” Radcliffe said.

Instead, he suggested the city have an engineer check the condition of the roads to determine what shape they are currently in.

SES attorney Chris Gearhart admitted the agreement wasn’t detailed, but said the agreement has been in place for almost a decade and that it was enforceable under Wisconsin law. 

“If Source were to violate it, you could pull the conditional use permit,” Gearhart said. 

Gearhart added that there was a good faith clause in the contract and that the company had paid for road repairs previously under the agreement that had been in place for a decade. 

“If a farm implement damages the road, that’s not going to be Source’s problem, but to the extent that the road deteriorates, Source is gonna take care of that and fix it,” Gearhart said. 

Radcliffe responded saying it was “naive” to think that Source would pay for road repairs that the company didn’t think it caused. 

“I don’t care, you can talk about good faith in contracts and talk about how it has been in place in for 10 years. There is a reason why there are courts and there is a reason why I have a job and that’s because people fight about stuff,” Radcliffe said. “You don’t leave it up to a judge after two years of litigation and $200,000 of attorney fees and expert witness fees to win a judgment of $150,000 to fix the road. That does not make any sense, you need to do this the right way. That’s as simple of advice as I can give you.”

Radcliffe told the council that Source could still use the roads without an agreement, since there was no way the city could prevent them from doing so. The question of extending the agreement on a monthly basis was brought up, but Radcliffe advised the city against doing so.

Alderman Paul Syverson expressed concern about going forward without an agreement. 

“I’m in favor of extending our current agreement because of the 25 truck limit,” Syverson said. “If we don’t extend it, they could have 200 trucks per day.”

Alderman Dennis Stephenson said he thought the council should adhere to the legal advice of its attorney. Radcliffe said they could do what they wanted to do because that’s why they were elected. 

“We’re gonna hope that the good faith he was talking about 10 minutes ago is going to happen through this process,” Mike Lisowski, city alderman, said. 

The council voted to have an engineer check the condition of the road, which, Radcliffe said would help them determine how much wear and tear the roads can handle. The attorney added that he was “shocked” that the city had signed the previous road use agreement. 

Should Source refuse to sign an updated agreement, Radcliffe said the city could eventually close the roads in question.

The council approved loaning $20,000 to A New Day Adult Day Service and $50,000 to Blair Meat Market through the Community Development Authority loan program.

Stephenson said all money that had been previously loaned out through the program has been repaid and that he had vetted the applicants. 

“I would not bring anybody to the council who I felt is even a slight risk,” Stephenson said. 

Alderman Jill Anderson expressed concern about loaning too much money out and not having enough for other businesses. Stephenson said the account had roughly $126,000 in it. 

“I would rather invest $125,000 into the community than hold onto $25,000 waiting for someone else to come,” Stephenson said. 

The council voted unanimously to approve the loans.

The council also heard of issues with street equipment, including the snow plow, which may need a new motor.

The question of if they should fix the plow — which was purchased in 1998 — came but it was noted that a new motor would cost about $15,000, whereas a new plow would cost more than $200,000. The plow has about 46,000 miles on it.

“Even if we’re talking about $15,000 for a new motor, it’s a lot cheaper than spending $200,000 for a new truck,” Lisowski said.

There were also issues noted with the condition of other vehicles — including pickup trucks and the street sweeper. 

“Some of our previous employees neglected (the equipment),” Syverson said. 

Syverson and alderman Chris Ekern said a maintenance plan is going to be put in place and the employees will be held accountable.

The council also declined to waive the 15-mile residency requirement for city police officer Kim Potts.

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