Petition Asks DOT To Change Hwy. 41/Kamm Road Intersection

A petition asking the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to make changes to the dangerous intersection of Hwy. 41 and Kamm Road at the George Webb turn-off in the Town of Grover has already gathered more than 1,500 signatures, Sheriff Randy Miller informed Marinette County Board’s Public Services Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The intersection has been the site of several fatal crashes in recent years, the most recent of which caused the death of an 8-month old baby.

Miller said he had spoken with Sen. Eric Wimberger about the petition and was told that he is looking into it. Miller also had talked with Marinette County Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister about steps the county might take to help reduce the dangers there until a real solution can be found. One suggestion, Miller said, was for the county to eliminate brush and keep grass mowed in all areas near the intersection to improve visibility in general, and reduce the height of snowbanks in winter.

Miller said the intersection is confusing and busy, with seven lanes going north and five lanes going south, and heavy traffic with many semi trucks. “The key is for drivers to be patient and wait for the lanes to clear before pulling out,” he said, adding, “Too often they are not patient, but hopefully something can be done.”

Supervisor Tim Pelzek, a member of the committee, expressed hope all appropriate county committees, and perhaps the full County Board, will address this issue. He suggested the county might want to send a resolution asking Wisconsin legislators to take action.

Miller said he personally patrols there often, and frequently sees near misses, and recently made four or five stops for speeding in a short time. He added that once he clocked a vehicle there at 115 mph, and suggested one thing that might help is reducing the speed limit there from the current 65 miles per hour to 55 mph and posting warning signs to that effect. He  also felt perhaps at some times of day the sun gets in the eyes of drivers and affects their vision.

County Administrator John LeFebvre mentioned an intersection near Gresham where vehicles are forced to turn with traffic, and proceed down the highway briefly before they can turn back into the lane going the direction they need to travel.

Miller said that is called a “J” turn, and there is also one near Maplewood Meats. He agreed it might work at the Kamm Road intersection, and LeFebvre felt there is enough road right of way there to make J turns work.

Pelzek suggested inviting a DOT representative to a County Board meeting, and Board Chair John Guarisco said he had no problem with that. LeFebvre felt the invitation should be issued by Burmeister.

Miller said the Wisconsin State Patrol has officers who specialize in accident re-construction, and suggested it might be good to contact them.

Supervisor Chris Norton, a member of the committee, said he works for the DOT, and suggested inviting one of their northeast region traffic safety experts.

There was also a suggestion that the intersection should be addressed by the county’s Traffic Safety Commission. Ironically, a meeting of that group had been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8, but was cancelled for lack of a quorum. The Public Services agenda for the day included a resolution authorizing members of that group to designate an alternate to attend in their place when they cannot attend. The resolution was unanimously approved. The Traffic Safety commission includes specific individuals appointed as representatives of the DOT, Sheriff, Highway Safety Coordinator, State Patrol, local police departments, the Highway Commissioner, and people from the fields of law, eduction, medicine, bus lines and more.

Once again there was much discussion on over crowding at the jail, the on-going shortage of Civilian Corrections Officers, and a recent state law change that allows corrections officers to be treated as protected service employees for the state insurance and retirement program.

Jail Administrator Robert Majewski said they recently hired two new corrections officers, and one lasted two days. Jail population remains high, with 130 prisoners. The fact that 40 of those prisoners are female makes housing even more difficult, he said.

Of the 130 prisoners, 110 are awaiting sentencing. He wondered if they could ask the judges to do something different. This led to a discussion on the shortage of attorneys in general, and public defenders in particular.

Majewski said jail staff has ben dealing with some extremely difficult inmates who are waiting their turn to go to one of the state mental hospitals.Three on the list for Mendota have been waiting two or three months, and are still 50th on the waiting list, he said. “The state needs to do something to get people into treatment quicker!” 

He added that committee members who took advantage of last month’s opportunity to tour the jail had gotten to see some of what he was talking about.

Committee member Gail Wanek thanked him for the opportunity to tour the jail, and said it was eye opening. She and others on the tour heard and seen the type of problem prisoner Majewski has been talking about.

Sheriff Miller thanked everyone who toured the jail, and agreed they had gotten to see, hear and probably smell some of what the jailers have to deal with regularly.

Wanek added that last month Judge James Morrison had presented supervisors with a list of court dates and invited them to attend. She had done so, and found the judge “was proceeding lickety split.” Each of the three public defenders there was assigned to defend five or six people. 

County Board Chair John Guarisco said he had attended a court session the previous week, and 80 percent of the defendants had drug related charges. He said one problem for the public defenders is that often several are arrested at one time and cannot be defended by the same attorney due to conflict of interest.

Majewski said they have had people in jail for 18 months trying to find them an attorney, and added, “as the sheriff has said, we might need to think about doing something different, or put another pod on the jail.

In his regular report, Miller said there had been two fatalities in Marinette county since the last committee meeting, both caused by driver error. One, on Oct. 21 at the junction of Perch Lake and Nelson Roads in the Town of Athelstane, had been caused by a driver going too fast around a curve, and the other, on Monday, Nov. 7, on Hwy. 8 near tower Road in the Town of Goodman, happened when a driver pulled out in front of a dump truck.

Miller said he and Majewski had recently saved the county over $5,000 by making a 12-hour trip to Junction City, Kansas to pick up a prisoner.

By unanimous votes the committee accepted a $100 donation from an anonymous donor to be used by the Marinette County K9 program, and agreed to recommend that County Board approve application for a drug trafficking response grant that could include up to $50,000 in equipment and other items related to investigation of drug offenses.


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