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County Highway Y raises ownership questions

County Highway Y has a question mark hanging over it.

Why would stretches of the highway belong to Douglas County and other stretches belong to Bayfield County?

"We have joint ownership in the eyes of the state of Wisconsin," Douglas County Highway Commissioner Jason Jackman said. "I don't know why the Department of Transportation divided up all these segments on the east side of Highway Y."

The segments are broken up into stretches ranging from feet to a half-mile on the northern 4 miles, totaling about 2.1 miles. Douglas County owns the west side of the highway.

With plans to repave the highway next year, Jackman said he is working with his counterpart in Bayfield County to consolidate the stretches to clearly define who is responsible for maintaining the county highway.

While talks are ongoing, one option is to designate the northern 2 miles as Bayfield County's and clarify ownership with the state.

Bayfield County receives gas tax revenue to maintain its portions of the highway; however, Douglas County has long maintained the highway.

"We couldn't find any agreements; we do all the maintenance," Jackman said. "I said we're not going to continue as is. That wouldn't be fair to the taxpayers of Douglas County."

And that maintenance will continue, but Bayfield County has accepted financial responsibility for its 2.12 miles of County Highway Y, Bayfield County Highway Commissioner Tom Toepfer said. He said details still have to be worked out, however.

Supervisor Nick Baker, chairman of the county's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he could understand why Bayfield County would have to hold onto the 2.1 miles.

"We don't want any more miles," Jackman said. Douglas County already has almost twice as many miles of county highway to maintain.

Douglas County has paid for the maintenance on all of County Highway Y for the last 50 years because it wouldn't make sense — and wouldn't be good for the public — if the Douglas County Highway Department only repaired potholes in its stretches of highways, then Bayfield County didn't have time to make its own repairs.

"How do you refuse to maintain this segment, this little piece here; you can't do it," Jackman said.

Jackman said up until now, Douglas County has largely filled potholes, plowed in the winter and mowed once a year.

However, with plans to pulverize and pave County Highway Y later this year, it's a matter that needs correction.

Jackman said Bayfield County has agreed to repave its portion of the highway when Douglas County does its project this year.

"They will do their two miles," Jackman said. "We just want to clean the map up."