County wants more information before contributing to Confluence - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

County wants more information before contributing to Confluence Project


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Developers hope for another dance partner for a big downtown project.  Tuesday night, an Eau Claire County committee said it would like more answers before committing to the Confluence Project.

That committee on administration meeting was just one in a series of meetings about the project, a project that would include a performing arts center and student housing downtown.

We know the final price tag could exceed $85 million.

The county's being asked to contribute five million dollars for the arts center portion of the project. The county is just one of several potential financial backers, including the city of Eau Claire and the U.W. Board of Regents. The Board of Regents and the city have yet to sign off.  And county officials have some questions they say need to be answered first.

At a County Board Administration Committee meeting Tuesday night, members had some questions about a potential partnership with the Confluence Project.

"I think it merits lots of time and effort and discussion about the pros and cons of this," says Eau Claire County Administrator Tom McCarty.

Chief among those concerns is what benefit the county will get out of the potential project.

"I think the economic impact is going to be of interest to people. That's probably going to be more notable than any of the other things that come forward is what will this do?" asks Eau Claire County Board member Colleen Bates. "I think you have to remember that obviously the city is part of the county, and you can't really separate the two in spite of the fact that we have separate functions in many respects the city of Eau Claire makes up the greatest population of the county of Eau Claire."

Which they say could benefit the county as a whole, just like the Chippewa Valley Museum and Paul Bunyan camps, which the county already financially supports.

"Arguably that's all part of the fabric of the community. This is a bigger decision obviously, and a long term one, and it's not something the county has done before," says McCarty.

Another concern?

"I think in general, people are a little concerned, what we're hearing, is concern about parking, to be sure that there's adequate parking for individuals that come into the city and attend events so that parking doesn't become an issue," says Bates. "Do I think the county should be a part of the collaboration? Yes I do. But to what extent? I'm not certain yet."

The Confluence Project will be discussed at next week's county board meeting, but no action will be taken then,

Eventually, it'll be up to the Committee on Administration to make a recommendation to the county board about whether to support the project.

And if the recommendation is to support it financially, it would need to be approved by the county board.  

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