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Marathon County takes addressing fight to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

in Breaking News/Wisconsin news

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Marathon County is asking the state’s highest court to review an appeals court decision that sided with Rib Mountain in a dispute over the county’s uniform addressing plan.

An appeals court decision handed down June 5 sides with Rib Mountain in the ongoing battle. But Marathon County Corporation Counsel Scott Corbett on Thursday filed a petition for review asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up the issue. The county had 30 days to request such action.

Dean Dietrich, an attorney representing the town of Rib Mountain, expressed disappointment Saturday in the county’s decision.

“The town is disappointed that the county has filed the Petition for Review but will follow the legal process,” Dietrich wrote, in a July 7 email to Wausau Pilot and Review. “The town believes that the Court of Appeals ruled properly.”

The town of Rib Mountain challenged Marathon County’s power to make such changes in “non-rural” roads. Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Huber in August ruled in the county’s favor, but the decision was stayed pending the town’s appeal.

The state’s high court must now decide whether justices will hear the case.

The argument stems from a Feb. 16, 2016 ordinance mandating a uniform addressing system throughout Marathon County. The roughly $1.12 million plan is necessary to avoid life-threatening delays in emergency services, advocates say.

But when Marathon County notified Rib Mountain that they would be required to rename 61 of the town’s 202 roads, Rib Mountain filed an instant lawsuit against the county.

Rib Mountain’s argument is that the county’s authority to implement the system extended only to rural areas in towns, and that the county failed to consider whether the roads affected by the plan were truly rural. Rib Mountain also alleges that some of the roads pegged for renaming had previously been identified as roads located in urban areas by either the Marathon County Metropolitan Planning Commission or the U.S. Census Bureau, according to court filings.

In the appeals court decision, judges ruled that the county exceeded its authority by mandating the uniform addressing system without regard to whether those areas qualify as rural. The court did not, however, take a position on precisely how the county should go about establishing clear, reasonable criteria in identifying rural areas.

The supreme court will not take a case simply because an issue was incorrectly decided or justice was not done in the lower courts. Rather, the supreme court considers whether a real and significant question of federal or state constitutional law is presented, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin.  A petition for review demonstrates a need for the high court to either establish, implement or change a policy in a decision that could clarify or harmonize existing law. Often, such cases have statewide impact or presents a question of law that is likely to recur unless the Supreme Court resolves it.

Rib Mountain has 14 to respond to the petition for review. The Supreme Court will then issue a decision either granting or denying judicial review.

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