Who should be whacking the weeds?

July 7, 2014

The debate continues between the City of Brookfield and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DoT) in regard to who is responsible for maintenance of grass and weeds along W. Capitol Drive.

But while the two parties remain uncertain as to who will be whacking the weeds in the future, they did team up to take down the visual obstruction in the last week.

"The DoT had the county cut most of them and there were a couple of places where we supplemented with city forces to get it all done," City of Brookfield Director of Public Works Tom Grisa said.

Grisa will meet with Waukesha County and DoT officials sometime next week to establish plans for the future.

"We have a little time until the grass gets high again, so hopefully we'll have it figured out by then," Grisa said.

In late June, an anonymous citizen contacted Brookfield Now as well as municipal officials with a complaint about weeds growing along W. Capitol Drive between Brady Road and Pilgrim Road that were high enough to present traffic and safety hazards.

Government officials are aware of the issue, but are unsure as to whose responsibility it is to keep the visual obstruction in check.

The Department of Transportation (DoT) contracts with counties to maintain state highways. However, there are times when specific municipalities will agree to maintain a state highway within their own jurisdiction. Whether or not the City of Brookfield made such an agreement regarding the area in question remains to be seen.

"Capitol Drive is a state highway. However, sometimes municipalities will feel that the level of service the state provides is not to the same level that they provide on their city streets," Waukesha County Director of Public Works Allison Bussler said. "At this point, we're still figuring out who is supposed to be maintaining that area."

A major complication for the area has been the DoT's introduction of a new policy for mowing in urban areas.

"The state used to only let us mow once per year, but we strongly expressed our concern with that and got them to change it in urban areas so that now we can mow more often," Bussler said. "The good news is that it can be taken care of, but we're just learning of it and perhaps somebody thought Brookfield would take care of it. We're going to sort it out."

Grisa noted last week that he had not received information on whether or not the area is considered urban under the new rules, but that both sides have been in conversation for much of this week in an attempt to resolve the issue.

"We are, I think, making some progress. We haven't resolved it yet, but I'm hopeful that we can get it resolved in the next few days," Grisa said. "We'll see."

Bussler noted that this is not a new problem.

"This has been debated for years. Hopefully we can get it figured out soon," Bussler said. "We'd like to get out there and cut it, but the DoT won't let us."

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