The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Mercer dropped from tribal suit


November 8, 2019


MERCER, Wis. — The town of Mercer is no longer a defendant in a tribal lawsuit brought against the state of Wisconsin and several northern municipalities, according to a report from attorney Fritz Schellgell at the Mercer Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday.

According to the lawsuit filed in 2018 at the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin including Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac Du Flambeau, Red Cliff and Bad River, are suing the state along with the towns of Bass Lake, Hayward, Lac Du Flambeau, Sanborn, Russell, Ashland, White River, Gingles, Boulder Junction and Sherman, along with state officials in their official capacities.

The suit contends that an 1854 treaty between a tribal predecessor and the U.S. government bars collection of Wisconsin property taxes on reservation land. The suit seeks an injunction against further taxes.

It was pointed out during the discovery phase of the suit that the Mercer is not part of the ceded reservation lands that the lawsuit contends are exempt from taxes as claimed in the suit, said Schellgell, who is legal counsel for the town board.

“We are out of the tribal lawsuit,” Schellgell said.

The board also approved a finalized amendment for the abandonment of portions of a subdivision access road leading to Mercer Lake Circle.

Schellgell said the city is essentially performing a land exchange with the Ritter Property to correct township plats regarding an easement and a former road. The exchange does not expand beyond the Ritter property boundaries, he said.

“Everything is done and we need to swap parcels and record the resolution,” Schellgell said.

The board approved a stipulation and the resolution concerning the Lamekas Road lawsuit. The stipulation for resolution of the complain creates a turnaround for township snow removal vehicles at dead-end of Lamekas Road.

The stipulation also settles easement and access point issues with all parties involved in the road issue, Schellgell said. The stipulation also allows the township to provide tree removal as necessary to pile snow in the area of the turnaround, he said.

In his report, board chair John Sendra said the town will seek other funding for a trail extension project after learning that a grant application was not approved. Sendra said he is continuing his research of other health insurance companies as an alternative to the township’s current plan that has increased in rates three times.

Sendra said the town is no longer involved with two separate tower projects for cell phone and rural broadband service. The AT&T cell phone tower and the Wisconsin State broadband towers have negotiated agreements with private land owners that are in preferable locations and higher ground, he said.

In his report, supervisor Charles Schroepfer said the paving work on the Thompson Trail was completed and that a $25,227 grant was awarded to help improve Pine Forest Road as part of the township’s 2020 road plan. Another $4,135 matching grant paid for culvert installation, he said. Schroepfer said the work to repair Moose Lake Road was completed a week ago. The Keweena Land Association agreed to fix the road that was in poor condition that was primarily used by the logging company trucks.

In her report, supervisor Opal Roberts said she has completed the Mercer Cemetery project that involved scanning lot documents and creating a database. The next step will be to create an updated map of the cemetery, she said.

There are about a dozen lots with a permit but no corresponding grave location, she said. The next phase will be to identify those lots and add them to the database and map, and to improved the roads next year, she said.

In other business, the board unanimously:

—Approved a tourist rooming house application for 5268 N Lake Tahoe Dr.

—Denied without prejudice a tourist rooming house application for 3707N Popko Circle East.

—Approved the annual $12,000 tax levy for the Mercer Public Library.

—Approved combining the billboard ordinance with the new signage ordinance.

—Approved supervisor Michael Lambert to represent the township on the Iron County forestry committee to revise the 15 year Comprehensive Land Use Plan.


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