If the Barron County Sheriff’s Department were to buy a pickup truck equipped with tractor treads and rent the truck to four county ATV/snowmobile clubs to use as a trail groomer, there could be significant savings in the cost of repairing and/or upgrading many ATVs /snowmobile bridges in the county.
That’s the information that was shared Monday, April 4, 2022, at the monthly meeting of the Barron County Board of Supervisors Property Committee.
At issue is how much to spend fixing bridges throughout the county, some of which haven’t been worked on for about 30 years and have deteriorated to the point where new decks and, in some cases, completely new bridges are necessary.
Work on the county-approved bridge repairs would be done by the county Highway Department, the learned committee.
County supervisors and administrative staff have been in discussions on how to use COVID-19 relief funds passed by Congress as part of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. Among the uses: fix snowmobile and ATV bridges which, because they’re part of the tourism industry, would fit some of the guidelines under the federal law.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald and Recreational Deputy Jeff Wolfe brought a proposal to the committee that they said could reduce the cost of bridge repairs.
Wolfe said he and Chief Deputy Jason Leu had recently visited Sawyer County, where they saw a pickup truck refitted with tractor treads that was used as a trail groomer.
If Barron County buys such a vehicle, “it would mean the bridges could be redone at a fraction of the cost of what we would need [to equip a bridge] to support a 30,000-pound trail groomer,” Wolfe said.
The Sheriff’s Department submitted a plan to buy a full-size diesel pickup, refit it with treads, hydraulics, a winch and a grooming drag, for a cost of about $198,000. The equipment could then be loaned to the county’s four ATV/snowmobile clubs on a rotating basis to groom the county’s 328 miles of recreational trails.
Groomers are equipped with GPS systems to document how and when they’re used, which is part of the formula used by the Department of Natural Resources to reimburse clubs (or, in this case, the county) for the cost and time taken to groom trails, committee members learned.
Supervisor Dana Paul Heller, Dist. 23, Rice Lake, said he’d been told that ATV/snowmobile clubs would support the idea.
“The clubs have a discrepancy in the kinds of equipment they use to groom the trails, and how often they do it,” he said. With the treaded pickup, “the four clubs could share it on a daily basis, or on weekends.”
County Administrator Jeff French asked the committee to approve a resolution authorizing the expenditure of just over $488,000 for the bridges and pickup/groomer.
Supervisor Bill Schradle, Dist. 7, towns of Vance Creek and Prairie Farm, made the motion to pursue the idea. It was seconded by Supervisor Bill Effertz, Dist. 27, towns of Almena and Crystal Lake. The motion passed.
Other supervisors at the meeting included committee members Jerry McRoberts, Dist. 19, Rice Lake, Carol Moen, Dist. 14, village of Cameron and town of Stanley, Bob Rogers, Dist. 1, Chetek, and chair committee Russell Rindsig, Dist. 17, town of Bear Lake and village of Haugen.