By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the city’s capital improvements and street maintenance committee on Wednesday narrowly voted to move forward on a design plan for Thomas Street, while approving a request for independent environmental testing of the area.
Committee members Lisa Rasmussen, Karen Kellbach and Sherry Abitz voted to authorize engineers to advance the plan to the 60 percent design phase. The plan, which is expected to undergo significant revision, currently stands at 30 percent completion. Gary Gisselman and Becky McElhaney were opposed. The decision is subject to full council approval.
City leaders received 26 written comments from the public in the days leading up to the vote. Those comments, which were included in the packet about two hours before the meeting, were largely — though not entirely — critical of the plan.
Wausau resident Ka Lo expressed concerns that the city has so far failed to include the Hmong community in these discussions. At a public hearing last month, Public Works Director Eric Lindman told Lo that Hmong language materials would be made available to allow Hmong neighborhood residents and business owners, along with members of the Hmong community who use the Hmong funeral home that sits along Thomas Street, could weigh in. So far, that hasn’t happened, though city leaders say they are working to resolve that issue.
“The very reason why the city lost state and federal funding in 2012 is because the city violated the Uniform Act, which ensures that minority and low income properties are treated fairly,” Lo wrote. “I’m not an expert on regulations in regards to the DOT or the federal highway administration, but I am sure that not having documents in a language of a population of persons which live and utilize the Thomas Street neighborhood is a violation of the Uniform Act.”