On Tuesday, the Minocqua Town Board balanced the pros and cons regarding whether or not the areas of open water and thin ice on Lake Minocqua, southwest side of the U.S. Highway 51 bridge, should be marked or cordoned off.

The issue came to the board’s attention following concern over an expanse of open water. It’s believed the open water was the result of the use of aerators by The Pointe Condominiums. 

The business was asked to regulate their use of aerators in early December and had agreed to do so.

“The Pointe Condominiums did agree,” town chairman Mark Hartzheim said. “We talked to them on Dec. 4. They did agree to 

install timers, and they did that.”

Since The Pointe Condominiums was asked to limit their use of the aerators, there has been some ice coverage on the portion of the lake in question. Despite the regulated use of aerators, recent weather changes have created patches of thin ice on Lake Minocqua. 

The lack of considerable ice on Lake Minocqua poses a threat to recreational users as the ice is still, according to the town board, far too thin to safely bring snowmobiles or other recreational vehicles onto.

The thin ice presented the question about whether or not it was the town’s responsibility to mark the thin areas of ice so people are aware of their location. 

Town clerk Roben Haggart stated that, due to insurance and liability, marking thin patches of ice may be counterproductive.

“I’ve had a conversation with the insurance company several years ago, where we had marked the water channel and somebody went through and they wanted to sue the town because we didn’t mark it good enough,” she said. 

According to Haggart, when she recently called the insurance company, they advised against marking the thin patches of ice because if the town misses a spot, or fails to mark all of the thin patches, then the liability falls on the town. It’s better to have signs on boat landings and access sites warning that ice conditions are not safe, Haggart said.

The board also recognized this issue may not be up to the town board at all, and may, in fact, be in the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There has been outreach to the DNR regarding how the town should proceed with thin ice warnings. 

Minocqua police chief Dave Jaeger said he’d made contact with the DNR regarding the issue. 

“They’re going to keep me posted, and I’ll let you guys know what I know,” he said.

Ultimately, the town board decided to table the decision for now until more information is gathered from the DNR on how to best proceed. 

“The town board is aware of the potential safety issue,” Hartzheim said. “Right now, it doesn’t sound like it’s in the interest of the town. Right now, we just have to rely on people to exercise caution.”

The town board further discussed the issue in relation to the snowmobile trails overall, coming to the conclusion that, due to inadequate snow and ice conditions, the opening of the snowmobile trails is still postponed as it has become a safety issue.

Conditional use permit

In another decision, the town board unanimously passed a motion to allow Northwoods Communication Technologies to erect and operate a 200-foot tall broadband communication tower that will provide internet services for area residents near Deepwoods Road.

“So that’s off of Deepwoods Road, down near as you get close to the Willow (Reservoir), near Skunk Lake,” Hartzheim said.

He clarified Northwoods Communication Technologies is the corporate name of Northwoods Connect, which already operates a couple of towers in town.

The construction and operation of this tower is part of the endeavor to bring more expansive internet and broadband coverage to remote locations in the Northwoods.

“What we’re trying to do with these towers, the town, and the county, have been enthusiastic, are really making an effort to plug in holes in the broadband coverage areas in our town and our community,” Hartzheim said.

Other matters

On other items, the town board Tuesday:

• Unanimously approved a motion to re-appoint Room Tax Commissioners Dick Heil and Buck Drossart for another one-year term.

• Tabled a decision regarding the administrative review permit for construction of a four-unit hotel on the property adjacent to Best Western. 

The decision was tabled pending additional information from the contractor and the applicants.

• Unanimously approved operator license applications.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at kaylah@lakelandtimes. com.