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Wausau Chemical plan includes “likely” forgivable loan

in Investigations/Wisconsin news

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU – A $8 million plan to relocate Wausau Chemical from the banks of the Wisconsin River to the city’s Business Campus is likely to be structured as a forgivable loan, according to city documents.

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Mayor Rob Mielke, left, and Economic Development Director Chris Schock on Thursday unveiled a new plan to relocate Wausau Chemical from Wausau’s riverfront. (Shereen Siewert/Wausau Pilot & Review)

Under the terms of the plan, which were unveiled on Thursday, the developer will receive payments not to exceed $7.95 million to be disbursed by the city on draw requests. Money will be used for site preparation and construction of a new chemical storage warehouse to be completed by June 1, 2019. The structure and funding source of those payments will be determined by Wausau officials to “maximize TID utilization and mitigate the city’s financial risk,” according to the relocation term sheet. “The likely financing structure will be a forgivable loan.”

The plan calls for the city to provide up to 15 acres of property in a space yet to be determined in the Wausau Business Campus Expansion Area for the construction, which is subject to review by the plan commission and other city departments. When construction is complete, Wausau Chemical will donate its four existing property holdings to the city. At that point, according to the term sheet, the loan will be forgiven.

The new facility is roughly the same size as Wausau Chemical’s existing facility, said Paul LaPree, a Miron representative who addressed reporters on Thursday. The building will be designed for later expansion, something Wausau Chemical can not do at its current location.

Relocating Wausau Chemical makes sense, said Mayor Rob Mielke, who voted against a nearly identical plan two years ago that was nixed by council members over cost concerns. Mielke said Wausau Chemical has been identified by Homeland Security officials as a potential terrorist target. Having the facility next to the river could pose a danger to the community.

Mielke also acknowledged that moving the business paves the way for redevelopment along the riverfront, which has undergone a significant transformation in the past year. But re purposing Wausau Chemical could be complicated, as the property was identified in 1988 by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site. A Superfund site is any land in the U.S. that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health or the environment.

EPA reports from the Wausau site show that the soil beneath Wausau Chemical could contain significant contamination, which could prompt significant cleanup costs to protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals. But Wausau Economic Development Director Chris Schock said Wausau Chemical will undergo up to two phases of environmental testing and will be responsible for paying the associated costs.

Two years ago, when city leaders first considered moving the business, bore samples were taken through the floor of the facility with “positive” results, said Finance Director Maryann Groat. The results of those tests will be shared publicly, Groat said.

Wausau Chemical will pay property taxes, or a payment in lieu of taxes, on a minimum assessed value of $7 million each year for a minimum of seven years on the new facility, according to the relocation terms.

The plan is subject to final approval from members of the city council, who will take up the matter on Tuesday, April 11.

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