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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Village of Wausaukee Poised For Some Major Developments

Issue Date: August 22, 2019

The Village of Wausaukee appears poised for several major developments in the relatively near future. Those developments include possible conversion of the former Stephenson National Bank Building on Main Street (Hwy. 141) into a downtown library, community center and village office complex, expanding use of Evergreen Park facilities, and development of both low to moderate income and high end residential housing opportunities.

Discussion at the Village Board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19 indicated that some of the projects may be assisted by funds in Marinette County's Revolving Loan Fund Energy Division (RLF-ED) CLOSE account that totals $907,972.95 and must be allocated for eligible projects by Jan. 31 of 2021. Partly because some of this money may help pay for the proposed conversion of the former Stephenson National Bank building to community use, County Administrator John LeFebvre was present for the meeting. He discussed prospects for a grant to help cover the local share if a federal grant is received or the project, and later in the meeting gave quick report on various other projects the county has in progress. He noted that Wausaukee is eligible for a grant from the CLOSE funds because of its rank as among the lowest per-capita income municipalities in the county. He said other uses being considered for CLOSE funding are improving signage and handicapped accessibility to all county facilities, including the county's waterfalls.

In addition to routine village business the meeting included an announcement by Roberta Davis, Marketing and Community Development Director for InVenture North, that Wausaukee has been chosen for a case study on ways to attract investors for housing developments. InVenture North is the successor organization to Marinette County Association for Business and Industry.

She said that decision had been made by the InVenture North Board of Directors following a housing roundtable discussion earlier in the day with local and county officials from Marinette and Menominee County area,

SMET Construction of DePere and American Companies of West Bend, along with other local developers, and information from representatives of WHEDA, USDA Rural Development and more, with the topic of, "Given the housing shortage in the area, what will it take to attract developers to build more housing?"

Village President Hilbert Radtke and Clerk/Treasurer Sara Pullen had attended that meeting and both were upset with a comment by County Board Chair Mark Anderson that no one would build a $300,000 home in Wausaukee.

Pullen and Radtke noted that the village has sites ready for low to moderate income housing on and near the site of the former Wausaukee High School, and for high end housing in a very desirable area at the top of "Ranger Mountain."

Davis said the housing study commissioned by MCABI a year ago showed that throughout the county, additional housing is needed at all levels. She told of a business executive recently hired by a local firm who had searched the entire county and found only two available properties that met her family's criteria for its home.

Radtke said InVenture North Board President John Deschane told him Wausaukee was chosen for the case study because, as with their sewer study and the study at the school, "We're ready to go."

Wausaukee also is working on plans for improvements at Evergreen Park and Campgrounds, with plan designed by U.P. Engineers and Architects. The sole bid received for that project was over budget and the committee had decided to rebid in fall for completion in 2020. Trista Hobbs, a representative of U.P. Engineers and Architects, had told the board at its July meeting that she had exhausted all options for additional funding for the project except for the county's CDBG-CLOSE funding. She and Pullen were to speak with LeFebvre on possibility of funding for that project.

The regular monthly Village Board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday evening began with a presentation of the feasibility report done by Cedar Corp on options and costs for redevelopment of the former Stephenson National Bank Building.

One of the action items included unanimous acceptance of a quick claim deed from the Town of Wausaukee that makes the Village sole owner of Evergreen Park. They had formerly shared ownership with the town. "It's about time!" declared Trustee Pat Tracy.

"Yes, after 50 years the deeds to the park are all signed," agreed Pullen.

At the start of the meeting Cedar Corp. Planners Corey Scheidler and Jim Frymark presented a detailed report on their feasibility study, including sketches, tentative floor plans and cost estimates for converting the building into use for library, village offices and community center complete with kitchen facilities and full handicapped accessibility, including an elevator and a new main entry at the back of the building for easy access from the parking lot.

The work they planned would achieve a 10,000 square foot building and cost about $1.2 million, Scheidler said. This could possibly be financed by a CDBG grant that requires a match of one local dollar for every two grant dollars. The cost does not include cost of purchasing the vacant building, which the bank has offered to sell to the village for a price that is possibly $300,000 or more below the appraised value.

There was a suggestion that possibly the difference between market value and the bank's asking price could be used to meet part of the local match requirement. LeFebvre had indicated the county fund could also help with that, and is one of four potential projects that the county is considering. He said one of his major concerns is what will happen to the building if it is not used for this purpose, as having large commercial building standing vacant in the main downtown area is very bad for the village.

Among the approximately 25 people in the audience for the meeting was Stephenson National Bank President and CEO Dan Peterson. Peterson said he would meet with his Board of Directors and ask them to look into the possibility and tax implications of selling to the village at the appraised value and then donating most of the money back to the village for the project.


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