A long standing, loosely-defined verbal agreement is about to get some definition.  It's already standard practice for the eight counties that make up Northwestern Wisconsin to work together in emergency situations to "get the motoring public moving after(wards)".  Now, they're taking the steps to formalize that situation.

The Douglas County Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a mutual aid agreement on January 5.  That formal agreement would provide the structure and policies that would govern how Ashland, Baron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn counties would "work together when emergencies, natural disasters, and manmade catastrophes arise (that) affect...the transportation system".

As described in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the agreement would allow the counties to work together and request mutual aid from each other "as is reasonably practical to ensure priority routes are addressed as a matter of regional priority".

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While each of the agreeing counties would maintain their own equipment, "normal plow routes", and a list of "priority routes", it also outlines the financial implications surrounding the mutual aid.  "(C)ounties provdiing aid (can)...bill the counties seeking aid for their costs".  At the same time, "counties unable to render aid can't be held liable for failing to render aid".

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In practical terms, this agreement has already been in place - verbally; this just solidifies the terms.  Jason Jackman, Douglas County Highway Commissioner explains:

"It's really what the northwest counties have in place verbally.  We meet once a month.  We help each other out.  This is more of a formal agreement."

Jackman shared that this arrangement is nothing new for Wisconsin counties.  There are examples of similar pacts throughout the Badger State.  And - the Wisconsin Department of Transportation encourages the formalization of these deals.

While the Douglas County Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the agreement, that doesn't mean that it's ready to be put in place.  The full Douglas County Board will need to take up the issue for a vote at a future meeting; as of right now, though, no firm date for that vote has been outlined.

Douglas County, WI government office building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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