RHINELANDER - Traffic flowing easily along Stevens Street this winter will face barriers that are familiar to downtown Rhinelander starting this spring.
A more than $14 million reconstruction project (with approximately $4 million more in supplemental allowances, additions, and contingencies) replacing pipelines and roadway is almost certainly guaranteed to cause some headaches, but the Rhinelander City Council faced two routes to get through it.
"Both are viable means," Public Works Director Tim Kingman explained during a council meeting Monday night.
A bid from Dorner Construction out of Green Bay would finish the work in two years at a cost of $14,886,926. Meanwhile, Rhinelander's Musson Brothers' bid to do the work in three years came in at $14,225,696, about $650,000 less.
"That is a considerable amount of money and a considerable savings," Alderman Steve Sauer said.
Under Dorner's bid, Musson Brothers would be hired as a sub contractor to do underground excavating and pipe work. Mussons plans to hire A1 Excavating to do the same job.
Kingman argued Dorner's one year for underground pipe work and the second year for repaving limits the risk a longer term project presents. Kingman's recommendation went toward Dorner.
"Every time you open up a ditch line, every time you leave the road open, it is potential for flooding residences and basements and all kinds of things," Kingman said.
Alderwoman Dawn Rog asked if finishing the project in just two years could free up resources for other road work.
"[Would we have the] opportunity to work on a separate road that was probably in need of repair for that third year other than working on this particular project?" Rog said.
Rog also worried about the impact an extra year of construction would have on businesses along the two-mile stretch of Stevens Street from just north of downtown to the Highway 17 bypass.
However, Hodag Country Fest Coordinator Gerry Van Harpen said the work near their main access road (County Highway W) wouldn't hurt attendance at the Pine Lake festival.
"We would like to see whatever is the most cost-effective savings," Van Harpen said.
Saving money by going with Musson Brothers could have further benefit. Vice President Greg Hilgendorf said his company would see more than $1 million extra in work on this project if it got the main bid.
"[You would have] a greater percentage of money staying within the Rhinelander area," Hilgendorf said.
The council voted 5-3 in favor of Musson's three-year bid. Sauer, Tom Kelly, George Kirby, Andrew Larson, and Steven Holt voted yes while Rog, Ryan Rossing, and newly elected member Lee Emmer voted no.
"Six-hundred fifty thousand dollars is not something to scoff at," Sauer said.
The tentative work schedule has construction starting on Stevens Street in March, depending on the weather.