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Roberts development would include Flying J truckstop, McDonalds

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

With board member Peter Tharp dissenting, the Roberts Village Board approved rezoning a piece of property from ag-residential to a B-5 highway business district, moving the Flying J truck stop project one step closer to reality.

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Tharp expressed reservations that the process is moving forward too quickly and that there haven't been enough opportunities to properly scrutinize the project with regard to green space, road configuration and environmental issues. Patty Johnson echoed those concerns wondering about the project's close proximity to the ballpark, as well as noise and air pollution issues. She also questioned whether the community is committed to clean responsible development for the long term.

Brad Alsup, speaking on behalf of Flying J, stated, "If DOT (the Department of Transportation) proceeds forward with their intended jug handles and bridge at the Highway 65 intersection, it would preclude pretty much any retail development at that intersection. If that ends up being the case, we will not build there."

He added they are continuing to talk with DOT and hope to find a workable solution. He also pointed out the project would create approximately 100 new jobs between the truck stop operations and other potential tenants of the plaza, including a convenience center as well as McDonalds and Subway restaurants. Flying J would also pay for roughly 3,000 feet of new sewer and water lines, which could benefit future businesses located along the route. There would also be added tax revenue for the village.

With regard to the environmental concerns, Alsup assured the board that Flying J expects to fully comply with all federal, state and local regulations.

The biggest remaining piece of the puzzle is the DOT's inability to commit to a firm plan to manage traffic considerations revolving around the project, according to village officials. DOT has recognized that upgrading the intersection and addressing the bypass are two separate issues, according to President Willard Moeri. Alsup and the board agree, without this missing piece, the future of the project remains uncertain.

"It's unfortunate because they are holding a lot of people hostage," Moeri said. "Not just the developers, but the community as well."

The board recommended that anyone with questions pertaining to the Flying J project forward their questions to Village Clerk Doreen Kruschke in advance of the next Planning Commission meeting scheduled for the first Thursday in March.

In other business:

* Public Works Director John Bond informed the board that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had approved the village's water treatment permit and, "there are some major changes in our permit, not in our favor."

In an unusual turn of events, the permit became effective immediately upon renewal. The village therefore becomes immediately subject to new, tougher standards put in place by the state requiring more frequent testing, more stringent monitoring and new contamination thresholds for chemicals like copper and phosphates.

"We officially have the strictest phosphorus limits of any waste treatment plant in the State of Wisconsin," Bond said.

All of which will add up to more money and, worst-case scenario, a costly new reverse osmosis treatment system if the current facility cannot effectively meet the new standards, Bond said. Bond pointed out that Hawkins Chemical Co., one of the parties responsible for testing village water, felt there was a mistake made in the phosphorus levels required by the permit.

The village has 60 days to exercise one of three options: legally contest the permit, apply for a variance or accept the new permit. The board instructed Bond to initiate the process to contest the permit with hopes that a solution shy of a full court battle might be reached with the DNR.

Moeri noted many more small communities around the state will face this dilemma as their permits come up for renewal.

"Expecting a small community to somehow pay millions of dollars to build state-of-the-art treatment facilities is unrealistic," he said.

* Police Chief Burgess was instructed to reregister an unused public safety frequency with the FCC. Reregistering will "prevent the police department from having to get a separate license through the FCC to run our radar equipment," at a greater cost down the road, he said.

The board also directed Burgess to purchase two new Phillips defibrillators to replace the older Cardiac Science models currently being used in the two patrol cars. The Phillips models are compatible with other local ambulance and fire service equipment and should cost around $3,000.

* Bond reported he found an alternative option for repairing the damaged sewer mains. A company out of Bloomington, Minn. employs a point specific technology that could accomplish the necessary repairs for about one third the cost ($3,000) of the original bid ($11,000).

* Board member Don Gerhardt recommended and the board approved the Fire Association's purchase of a LUCAS II chest compression device at a cost of $13,974. The device provides consistent, continuous chest compression for up to 45 minutes, saving lives and improving the viability of organs for transplant.

* Head Librarian Brenda Hackmann reported that the library's increased circulation of 8,829 in 2011 made it one of only 15 libraries throughout the region with increased circulation last year.

* The board denied Bond's request to attend a municipal engineering seminar in Green Bay citing the high cost to attend.

* The board approved an ordinance change making it illegal to sell a synthetic version of marijuana.

The Village of Roberts board meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall. The public is invited to attend.

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