Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Mercer continues resort area tax effort


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MERCER, Wis. — The town of Mercer will continue its community outreach regarding a proposed Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT) as a preferred source of revenue to maintain roads as opposed to placing the burden on the property tax.

The Mercer Community Center held as many people as could be safely distanced at a special meeting prior to the regular town board of supervisors meeting on Thursday. There were several questions along with opponents and proponents of the PRAT that failed a previous ballot attempt two years ago.

The town board scheduled a public hearing on the PRAT topic for 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Mercer Community Center.

“This is the thing we all have to wrestle with and we do appreciate more ideas,” said John Sendra, town board chair.

The PRAT is a half-cent targeted sales tax that is designed for resort areas like Mercer, he said. If the voters approve the PRAT it would be a substitute to increasing the property tax in order to help fund increasing costs for roads and other infrastructure.

“We need to have good roads but how do we do it?” Sendra said.

The town board approved a Mercer Library’s request to apply for a setback variance in order to build a patio extension to the southeast of the property toward Library Street. The variance request needs the town approval as part of the application with the Iron County Board of Adjustment.

The town board placed discussion and possible action regarding the purchase of a mid-size excavator on the January meeting agenda. The town road crew foreman, Jake Saarnio, said he received bids and the consensus in the department was for the John Deere 245G short tail excavator. Although it was the second-lowest bid, the John Deere offers the best warranty in terms of years and hours of use.

The town board approved a request of the FireWise Program to allow volunteers to deposit brush in Hadley Brush Pit if necessary during its June 2021 project to encourage residents to clear brush to reduce fire hazards.

Norm McKindles, president of the Spider Lake Association, was present to explain the request. The concern was that volunteers spend the maximum time with the two-day availability of vehicles and trailers on picking up brush that homeowners leave at designated spots and not transporting the brush to distant pits, he said.

“We only have two days with the equipment and we don’t want to lose time,” McKindles said. “All the brush is coming from Mercer residents.”

Hadley Brush Pit is further and would only be used if necessary, he said. The project is in response to a DNR designated of the area as a high risk.

Mike Shouldice, president of the MECCA Ski Club, was present to announce that the annual Winterfest cross country ski event will start as soon as enough snow falls and run through Feb. 21, 2021.

The course was designed with 5, 11 and 15 kilometer cross country ski loops. A new 2 mile snowshoe trail was added to the tour in addition to the existing 1 mile trail.

MECCA expects to have an increase in skiers for this season’s Winterfest due to the change from a weekend event to ski-on-your-own event all winter long. The change was to avoid the crowds of a weekend event during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has named MECCA Ski Club as its 2020 Partner Award in recognition of decades of collaboration with the DNR. MECCA expects to have 4,000 volunteer hours this year.

An agenda item on blight violations was moved to executive session in order to confer with the township attorney Fritz Schellgell.

In other business, the board approved:

—A planning commission recommendation to approve a tourist rooming house permit at 6365W O’Meara’s Road.

—Permission for township staff to issue checks before the end of year.

—Continuing discussion and possible action on amending land use and conditional use forms and permit fees used by the planning commission to the next meeting.