City council approves $5 million pledge for Confluence Project - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Confluence Project: $5M pledge approved; Amendment tying referendum to pledge fails

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire's Confluence Project has the support of the city council, but it comes with strings attached. 

Tuesday night, the council voted 8-3 to approve a $5 million pledge for the proposed $51 million community arts center.  It's definitely a boost for supporters, but as one council member said, "It's not a contract."  Certain things have to happen for the funding to be doled out.

For example, the state would need to kick in $25 million for the arts center.  The city also wants to also see $20 million from philanthropy and other private/public sources.

A potential referendum was not included among the conditions.  Last week, a citizen group called on the council to put the project on the ballot in April.  That was a focus as the council discussed the pledge for an hour and a half on Tuesday.

City Attorney Stephen Nick said in his legal opinion, the council's decision Tuesday night would likely trump a referendum.  He said that could change depending on whether the wording of the pledge was changed.  A council member then offered an amendment to make the city's pledge contingent upon the results of a referendum.  That motion failed and then the $5 million pledge was approved.  "Passing this pledge tonight, knowing full well that if you pass it, the referendum really can't come back and do it, is doing an absolute disservice to the very people who elected us to sit in these chairs," said Monica Lewis, an Eau Claire City Council member.  "I'm very happy that we have a community that's engaged and likes to participate in these kind of decision-making processes.  It does not require a referendum," said Eric Larsen, an Eau Claire City Council member.

After the council approved the pledge, the citizen group that supports a referendum said it disagrees with the city attorney's opinion and will begin collecting signatures to put the project on the ballot.  The city council also left the door open to create its own referendum.  The council voted to postpone a discussion about that topic for two weeks.

As for the next step in the process for the Confluence Project:  Next month, UW-Eau Claire has to submit its list of capital projects to be considered by the UW-System and the Confluence Project will ask for $25 million from the state.  Organizers are also asking for $5 million from Eau Claire County.  There's no word on when the county will take up that request.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - By a vote of 8-3 Eau Claire's city council takes a stand on the Confluence Project. Tuesday night the council pledged $5 million to the project, to be directed toward the community arts center. 

That pledge is based on a number of conditions. Chief among those is a $25 million commitment from the state for the $51 million community arts facility. Even if the council approves the pledge as stated, a number of things have to happen for the funding to go through.

Developers behind the $77 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.

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