Questions remain about Confluence Project referendum - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Questions remain about Confluence Project referendum

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Signatures are being counted and verified but some questions remain about a petition by a group that wants to see Eau Claire's $80 million Confluence Project on the spring ballot.

  

The group needed to collect 3,600 signatures by the end of the year to get a referendum on the proposed project on the April ballot.

  

More than 4,900 signatures were turned in to city hall yesterday.

  

The petition calls for the city to hold a binding referendum on the Confluence Project before construction begins but the 167 word proposed referendum may leave more questions than answers.

  

"How this referendum relates to or affects the Confluence Project is unclear to me. I think the people that signed the petition are expecting that they're going to be able to vote yes or no on the Confluence Project and I think they're going to be surprised when they get into the voting booth because that is not what this petition is about," says Eau Claire City Council Member Kathy Mitchell.

  

Mitchell went on to say that since the pledge was already approved by the council, she believes the referendum cannot change it but might affect similar large scale projects in the future.  We spoke with the President of the Citizen's Referendum Committee, who wrote the petition. He says even though the Confluence Project isn't specifically mentioned in the wording of the referendum, he believes it will still affect the project because the money has simply been pledged and not spent.

 

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- Pages of signatures were delivered to Eau Claire's city hall Thursday afternoon. A group that wants to see the proposed Confluence Project on the spring ballot says they have more than enough support to make that happen.

 

On Thursday over 4,935 signatures were turned in supporting a referendum on the $80 million downtown Eau Claire project. The group needed to collect 3,600 signatures by the end of the year to get it on the April ballot.  

The petition calls for the city to hold a binding referendum on the Confluence Project before construction begins.  

The Eau Claire city clerk says they've begun the process of verifying the signatures. The city attorney will also need to look at the petition before it's officially certified. If that happens it heads next to the city council, where council members can choose to adopt the referendum or send it to a vote. 

"In my opinion, it would be very, very difficult for the city council to not place this on the spring ballot with the kinds of signatures that we have," says Mike Bollinger, president of the Citizens Referendum Committee. 


In October, the city council approved a $5 million pledge, with conditions, for the project. At the time, city attorney Steve Nick, said that decision would likely trump a referendum. 

 

The petition reads: Prior to the start of any physical construction of any municipally financed (in whole or in part) project which includes a building planned for dramatic, musical, or artistic performances, requiring a capital expenditure by the City, or by any entity created by the City, of one million dollars or more, the City Council shall submit to the electorate a binding referendum for approval of the project. Failure of the binding referendum shall preclude the City or City entity from proceeding with the project. The wording of any referendum shall provide the specific purpose, location and cost of the project and an estimate of operating costs which will be provided by the City or a City entity. Nothing in this provision shall be construed to preclude the City from exercising its role in the planning or design of such publicly financed projects. 


 This ordinance shall be in full force and effect upon passage and publication as provided by law.

 

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Confluence Project developers will ask Eau Claire County for $5 million.  We now know when the county will consider that request.

The county's administration committee will take it up at its meeting on January 7. It will go before the finance committee on January 9. Depending on what happens in those committee, a resolution may then go before the full county board at its meeting on January 21.

The county's consideration would be the next step for the project, which received a $5 million conditional pledge from the city council recently. The project will also seek $25 million in state funding. A citizen group is also trying to gather enough signatures to put the project on the ballot.

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