Property Committee discusses sallyport project updates

The Marquette County Property Committee met on February 1st where they heard about a large number of tax deed properties, discussed the Marquette County Historical Society’s lease, and looked at massive potential savings for the jail sallyport project.

County Treasurer Jody Myers began the meeting by giving an update on the 2021 Tax Deed Properties. They had 47 outstanding properties for last year, with 16 of them coming from one individual and many of the others being people from the previous year. The total taxes owed is around $35,000.

They also discussed the language used on the Wisconsin Surplus Auction website, which the County uses for the property that it lists. Myers proposed having the wording changed to say that, “Successful bidders will be responsible for full payment of current year taxes, special assessments, and special charges.” This would help make clear that the winner of the bid is responsible for the property’s owed taxes. A motion was made and passed approving the language change. 

Corporation Counsel Natalie Bussan then discussed the proposed Historical Society lease contract that they had been discussing. Bussan said that she had been working with the Society on an agreement and had issued them a proposed final version of the agreement. The major change that the Historical Society requested was that it be a 1-year short-term lease to allow them the time to assess the possibility of taking over the ownership of the property. The County would pay some utility and operating expenses, including natural gas up to $1,200, alarm monitoring up to $250, telephone and internet up to $825, and the fixing of the well in the event it breaks down. The county will also provide snow removal and mowing as they have previously done. Any other repairs or maintenance will have the first $1,000 covered by the county, and any costs above that would be split with the Historical Society. The Historical Society will manage the electric and garbage costs. The proposed contract is non-renewing and would need to be discussed again later in the year. A motion was made to authorize County Administrator Ron Barger to sign the contract for the County, which passed. 

County Administrator Ron Barger gave an update on the former Whitemarsh property on Underwood Ave near Montello Lake. The County now owns the property after a long legal case. Barger asked the committee what they would like to do with the property and they discussed their options for it, including selling it or keeping it, and continuing to allow billboards to remain there to bring in revenue. 

Barger was in favor of selling the property or graveling part of it so ice fishermen could safely park but noted that there could be issues with the DNR due to wetlands being on the property. Other members were in favor of selling the property and recouping some of the costs. They had discussion on all their options and determined that more research has to be done on the property before a decision can be made. It will be brought back next month.

Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Paul Van Treeck then gave an update on the jail sallyport construction project. A crane was brought in to work on the tower on the courthouse property and was due to be completed that week. They also had an asbestos removal bid package that was due back the following week and would be completed by April 1st. 

The sallyport bid package is still being worked on, as they are still working on the foundation design. They are still determining if they can use a conventional foundation system or if they will need to use helical piers for the foundation. Recent studies showed that they may be able to use a conventional foundation system and they were determining what the cost difference would be. They budgeted $125,000 for rammed aggregate piers originally, and helical piers would cost around $110,000. If they use a conventional foundation system there could be massive savings, but if they have to dig down 20 feet to the original foundation the cost difference would far less.

Van Treeck also discussed getting a second opinion on how part of the project would impact the current jail basement wall. The engineers were concerned over the new building putting pressure on the basement wall and potentially causing stress cracks, but they believed that this 600 sq. ft. building would be light enough and would not require additional foundation work to relieve pressure on the basement wall. They suggested getting a second opinion on how the weight would actually affect the basement wall, and if it isn’t needed they could see savings of $80,000-$100,000. 

If they choose not to have the soil surcharged, the county board would need to sign a waiver for the project and they could do other things such as reinforce the parts of the basement walls near the sallyport addition. While there are soil issues deep down, the top ten feet of soil are sturdy and they believed the building would be light enough to not need the additional work. 

Committee members were in favor of getting the second opinion but noted that the project needs to be built correctly and that comes first over the cost savings. This will be looked into and brought back to the committee in the future.