Council's Confluence Project pledge could be $5 million - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Council's Confluence Project pledge could be $5 million


Eau Claire (WQOW) - $5 million, that's the amount the city of Eau Claire could pledge toward the Confluence Project early next week. That's according to Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid.

Developers behind the $80 million project have asked the city for $10.9 million to support the student housing and arts center and an additional $2.5 million for a plaza leading up to the building.

The pledge is up for a vote during this Tuesday's city council meeting.

WQOW News 18 has been checking in with city council members all week to get a feel for where they're at.  9 of the 11 council members responded. Of those, there seems to be a strong sense of support to move the project forward.

But keep in mind, the council is voting on a pledge, and not a contract. The city says that means all of the other pieces of the puzzle have to come together before they dish out the funds. 

On Thursday two council members weighed in, one who is ready to vote yes on the pledge and one who isn't.

Kincaid says, "It's time to make a decision and take a leadership move."

Eau Claire City Council Member Monica Lewis says, "Right now I would believe that I am voting no unless they would add something about the binding referendum in there." 

Tuesday night city council is set to take a vote and pledge a dollar amount to the project.

Kincaid says, "The resolution to offer a pledge of $5 million towards the community arts building, is contingent or depends on a whole list of things." 

That list will include things like a commitment from the state for $25 million and at least $10 million in donations to push the project forward.

Lewis says, "Where is this huge philanthropic part that has to step forward and why do they have to know how much the city is going to put in before they make their donations?"

"The real impetus of our action is to show a willingness on the local level to try this," explains Kincaid.  

But even if the resolution to make a pledge is passed, the possibility of a referendum could change things. 

Lewis says, "I think the citizens are smart enough to make this decision."

Last week a citizen committee announced it will try to gather enough signatures to put the project on the ballot next spring.

Kincaid says, "I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to be involved as a citizen, but there are thousands of others ways to get your questions answered and be involved."

Lewis says, "The city council president, after the committee made their announcement, said we need to take a very slow and deliberate approach to moving forward with the Confluence Project and I truly believe this pledge Tuesday night is neither slow or deliberate."

The official resolution to make a pledge from the city is expected to be released sometime Friday afternoon. Kincaid says there is a list of contingencies at least a page long.

There will be a public hearing on the pledge and possible referendum this coming Monday. It starts at 7:00 pm at city hall. Citizens are invited to weigh in on what they think the council should do. A vote on the pledge could happen Tuesday.

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