Eau Claire (WQOW) - When there's a development proposal that includes a mix of public/private money and buildings that may need to be taken down, there are bound to be questions about how it will happen.
Ever since Eau Claire's Confluence Project was unveiled more than a year ago, developers have been fielding questions and that continued on Monday night. There was a discussion about how the community arts center would be run. People packed Eau Claire City Hall for a city council work session.
One of the lingering questions concerning the Confluence Project is the role of the taxpayer. Developers are hoping for a $10 million commitment from the city and potentially up to $200,000 a year from room tax revenues. Hotel room taxes are distributed to several agencies, like the Chippewa Valley Museum and Paul Bunyan Camp, through the city's community enhancement fund. That fund reached $1.4 million this year. "If it was the will of the city to support this, that in a fiscal matter we would still be able to support other organizations without having to take away from the community enhancement fund due to the projected growth of room tax revenue and overnight room stays," said Eau Claire City Council Member Catherine Emmanuelle.
Lead developer Dan Clumpner says it's important for room tax revenues to keep growing. "The ability to bring artists to the smaller venue, or half of the larger venue on a Tuesday or Wednesday as they're going from here to here... and this can't be just a Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday thing. These Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights are what's important," said Clumpner.
One plan would be to have the state and city co-own the community arts center... so another key question is how to effectively run a facility with multiple stakeholders. A board of control or a governance council would be created to make sure the facility meets its programming and financial goals. The question then is... who would be on that board of control? "What's proposed is three (seats) from UW-Eau Claire, two from the city, one from ECRAC, one seat from Visit Eau Claire, one from the county, and a temporary seat filled for two years by the developer, which then would go on to represent a seat for a private business person," said Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid.
"I certainly think the business community is interested in this project and the success of this project... and by having a member of the business community participate on this governance council, it would possibly add to the success of the project. I would be very in favor, and I would guess the chamber would as well," said Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Darin McFadden.
"The VenuWorks model had as a central operational entity, a private manager. We think that those who are going to use the facility need to be in that position where they can really control and are ultimately responsible for the operations, the day-to-day operations," said Clumpner.
There was no vote taken on city funding for the project on Monday night. That will come later. The county is also being asked to contribute and has not made a decision either.