The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Public sounds off on road commission garage


Tom Stankard / Daily Globe

DARREN PIONK Gogebic County Road Commission engineer-manager, right, responds to the public's concerns on Wednesday about the road commission's proposed plans for a new garage. In picture, from left, are: John Turkal, Bessemer Planning Commission chairman; Richard Matrella, Bessemer Planning Commission commissioner; and Pionk.



BESMMER - The Bessemer Planning Commission heard the public speak on Wednesday about the Gogebic County Road Commission's plans for a new maintenance garage.

Darren Pionk, road commission engineer-manager, said the current garage in Bessemer is outdated and does not meet the road commission's needs.

Looking towards the future, Pionk said the new garage will be roughly 46,000 square feet and cost about $4.7 million. The garage is planned to be located on Marshalek Road in Bessemer off U.S. 2.

Pionk said the plans will include a storage garage, a salt shed, a wash bay, four mechanic bays and offices for staff. In addition, the plan includes rebuilding Marshalek Road and redoing utilities.

Later on, the road commission does not plan to expand upon the garage and will not store all their equipment in the new facility. The road commission has the current garage in Bessemer, a facility in Marenisco and in Watersmeet. Pionk said the new garage in Bessemer will "steer the commission in the right direction."

At a Jan. 6 planning commission meeting, residents on Marshalek Road said they're concerned about being able to see the facility from their property. Pionk said the road commission plans to include berms to provide additional buffering for residents and plant trees on top. Residents said they were also concerned that the vehicle's lights will flash through their windows.

On Wednesday, John Stempihar, of Bessemer Township, said he opposes the road commission's plans because the location will create "another traffic hazard" on the highway and said the commission should look for another location.

Stempihar said there are already three traffic hazards between Ironwood and Bessemer - the intersection at Country Club Road near the Walmart, the Grand View intersection, and the Blackjack Road intersection.

"If our lives aren't worth it to study a little bit more and pursue another site, then I don't know where they're coming from," he said.

John Turkal, planning commission chairman, said Stempihar's comments echo a lot of people's opinion. Turkal said the Michigan State Police and the Gogebic County Sheriff's Department agrees with Stempihar.

Peter Matonich, GCSD Sheriff, and a resident on Marshalek Road, asked the road commission why they choose the proposed site.

"There's so many other sites in the community that should be looked at that would cost less," he said. "(Why) rebuild the city street and re-do utilities, (have) burns, bushes, shrubs, underground sprinkler systems?"

Matonich said he's concerned about the traffic the proposed location will attract onto Marshalek Road.

"This traffic is going to be overwhelming," he said. "I watched the traffic from my office window (at the sheriff's department on West Iron Street) and I counted seven trucks there at 10 a.m. I counted trucks (going) back and forth. It's going to be overwhelming in that area with traffic."

Matonich said he's concerned what is going to happen to water lines if Marshalek Road is rebuilt.

"Are you going to lower the waterline? He asked. "Is the city going to make them? I'm concerned about what is going to happen in the future."

Turkal said the planning commission recommends that if the road is rebuilt the water line should be dropped to the same elevation.

After hearing the public's concerns, Pionk said the county road commission looked at other possible locations. But he said the other locations didn't meet the commission's needs, including direct access to the highway and being within close proximity to projects.

Pionk said the road commission is not a huge traffic generator, with 15 to 17 people working out of the facility.

Pionk said the road commission intends to buy water from the city for the new garage. But he said the issue with that is fire suppression. Wanting the best fire suppression possible, he said the commission will probably use a "fire suppression line from GRWA and city domestic for their use. Pionk said the authority's water line is 15 pounds per square inch higher than the city's.

"The city will get the water and sewer bills and we will pay them," he said. "I think that's a good compromise for the whole situation."

Turkal said Wednesday's meeting is the first of series of meetings regarding the road commissions' proposed garage.


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