Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Will Old Loomis Road Finally Be Fixed?

Supervisors reconsider road repair after turning down state funding for project two years ago.

By - May 23rd, 2023 10:33 am

Old Loomis Road. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Two years ago the Milwaukee County Board scuttled a road reconstruction project that had state grant funding. Now the board is poised to spend even more county money on the same project, though the state grants are gone, and instead of reconstruction, they’re considering repairs to the road’s surface.

Old Loomis Road is the roadway in question. It’s in terrible condition. In 2021, County Managing Engineer David Gulgowski said the road scored 20 out of 100 for road conditions (100 being a new road). It’s only approximately 0.38 miles long and provides driveway access for fewer than 10 homes, according to Parks, but it provides a connection to the Oak Leaf Trail. The road, despite its short length, sits in both the City of Franklin and the Village of Greendale.

In 2021, parks went before the board to seek approval of a $158,000 contract for engineering services to redesign the road. The board rejected the contract unanimously, twice, effectively killing it and causing the county to lose out on state grant funding, secured by the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), that would have supported a full reconstruction of the road.

Now, Sup. Kathleen Vincent is proposing using $225,000 from the county’s rainy day fund for a mill and overlay repair of the road, which involves taking off the top layer and repaving it. Her co-sponsors on the resolution, Sup. Patti Logsdon and Tony Staskunas, voted to reject the project in 2021, though Staskunas did try to persuade his colleagues not to scuttle the project before joining them in a unanimous vote.

At a series of meetings in 2021, Logsdon and then supervisor John Weishan, Jr. suggested that the Parks department was pushing a project to benefit the nearby The Rock Sportsplex and Ballpark Commons development. Then-supervisor Joe Czarnezki said that if the county refused to fix the road, perhaps one of the nearby municipalities would eventually seek to take it over.

Jeremy Lucas, Parks Director of Administration and Planning, reminded supervisors at those meetings that they had already approved the project as part of their budget, and he was merely seeking approval of an engineering contract so Parks could move it forward. Neither Franklin nor Greendale were interested in taking ownership of the road, Lucas said. Parks main concern, he said, was “to preserve access to the Oak Leaf Trail and utilize funding that has been appropriated.” He added, “I patently disavow that the parks department has any sort of agenda with The Rock.” The department was not planning to design the roadway for commercial use, and was even considering narrowing it, he said.

Lucas also urged supervisors, in the event they rejected it, to at least work with MCDOT to repurpose the state grant funding that would have supported the project. That did not occur.

Vincent, who was not on the board when it last rejected the project, said the road has become a safety concern, and potentially a legal liability for the county. “I am aware of at least one person and one pet that have been injured on this road,” she told her colleagues at a recent meeting of the board’s Committee on Finance. Vincent’s resolution is co-sponsored by supervisors Logsdon and Staskunas.

MCDOT Director Donna Brown-Martin told the Committee on Finance the state funding opportunity that the board effectively rejected is no longer available. “So, we will need to take care of this ourselves.”

The Finance committee eventually laid over Vincent’s proposal, pending final cost estimates for the new scope of work from Parks. But not before Sup. Steve Taylor, who wasn’t on the board in 2021, expressed outrage that the board was now considering spending more county money for repairs that won’t last longer than reconstruction. Taylor sought rejection of the new spending for the project, saying it was “major mismanagement” on the board’s part to “reject a million dollars for a full reconstruction.”

“But, to sit here, and think that we are going to vote on spending more money for a crappier product, and two of the co-sponsors helped tank the original,” he said. “And we’re going to go along with this?”

Taylor noted that last time around supervisors, like Logsdon who is now a co-sponsor on the spending resolution, rejected the project for its alleged benefit to The Rock development. Taylor is the executive director of the ROC Foundation, which is the non-profit arm of ROC Ventures, the developer behind Ballpark Commons, a mixed-use baseball park that received significant public financing from the City of Franklin. Taylor served as a Franklin alderman and a county supervisor as the project went before both governments for key approvals and financing.

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3 thoughts on “MKE County: Will Old Loomis Road Finally Be Fixed?”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    When the state was ready to pay for it, Sup. Patti Logsdon voted no? But now that the County would be stuck paying for it she votes yes? Does that make any sense? It looks a lot like many streets in the city of Milwaukee. No thanks to this hairbrained scheme.

  2. 45 years in the City says:

    I’ve asked this question many times: Why does a fully incorporated county (i.e.: every bit of Milwaukee County is either in an incorporated city or incorporated village) have county trunk highways? County highways is a rural concept that makes little sense to me for Milwaukee County. Perhaps these roads should be devolved to the municipalities through which they run.

  3. Colin says:

    because all of Milwaukee county isn’t the City of Milwaukee, lol.

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