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Community
Written by MICHAEL LoCICERO   
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 17:52

Village officials unclear of cost, time needed to acquire access for Main Street reconstruction

The Village of Belgium may be on the hook to acquire rights of way for 53 property owners on Main Street in order to go ahead with an estimated $4.2 million reconstruction project, Village

President Rich Howells told the Village Board last week.

Highway D (Main Street) was constructed before Belgium was incorporated as a village in 1922.

When it became a village, officials should have acquired rights of way on the properties adjacent to Main Street.

“This should have been cleaned up many years ago, but it seems it was not,” Howells said.

A major difference between a town and village is town residents’ properties extend to the center of  roads.

According to Ozaukee County’s

Geographic Information System, the village may not have acquired all rights of way from property owners on Main Street.

Howells will talk to Menasha-based

Accurate Appraisals, the village’s assessor, to determine if rights of way belong to the village or property owners.

If they belong to property owners, the village would have to acquire easements in order to begin the reconstruction project.

That could be costly and take a lot of time, Village Attorney Gerry Antoine said.

“In order to do that, you have to send a notice to the property owners, who have a right to get appraisals that the village pays for and negotiate a purchase price,” Antoine said. “It’s not something you can do at the last minute.”

The village may have the backing of state statutes and court rulings to work around the oversight, Howells said.

The entire project is still in the beginning stages and officials need to do more research, Howells said.

“A lot of homework still has to be done and we don’t want anyone to get too worked up over this,” he said.

The assessor should be able to determine if the GIS map is accurate and if the village needs to acquire any easements on the properties.

“It may be some, it may be all or it may not be any,” Howells. “Eventually, we will go in one by one and see if we have the authority to go in and do this.”

The village was awarded a $3.2 million grant in January by the Surface Transportation Program-Rural, which allocates federal funds to complete a variety of improvements to rural highways.

The remaining $1 million will likely be split between Ozaukee County and the village. That leaves the village’s share approximately $510,000.

Main Street is “one of the worst thoroughfares in the county and needs to be fixed,” Howells said.

The county plans to do some patchwork on the street this spring, but that will only hold the village over for a few years, Howells said.

Acquiring rights of way is the responsibility of the village, according to a memorandum of understanding between Belgium and the county.

Belgium officials approved to the memorandum at the board meeting.

The county’s Public Works Committee will discuss the memorandum Thursday, Feb. 20, but it will not be responsible for easement acquisition, Howells said.

Main Street will undergo a total facelift, possibly by December 2016. Howells called that deadline “aggressive, but possible.”

“This (right of way acquisition) may take a few years if that’s what we have to do. We also need our assessor to tell us if the property owners pay taxes out to the center line of the road instead of the sidewalks,” Howells said.

Howells will present his findings to the board March 10 and update residents at that time.

The reconstruction is set to span approximately 140 feet from west of Lilac Lane to Highway LL.


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