By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the city’s economic development committee has approved new safeguards to better vet investors and developers who seek pubic funds for private projects.
Economic Development Director Chris Schock on Tuesday unveiled an updated application for potential city partners, which now asks crucial questions of both developers and shareholders with at least a 20 percent stake in a proposed project. The new application poses questions about current and former bankruptcies, lawsuits, criminal charges and outstanding tax liens and requires applicants to explain those situations in detail before a partnership is approved.
The changes are being adopted in the wake of a March Wausau Pilot and Review investigation that revealed a key partner in the city’s Riverlife project had been embroiled in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme in Colorado, a revelation that took city leaders by surprise.
“I think this is a smart change for us to make, asking questions on the front end,” said Council President Lisa Rasmussen.
Rasmussen also requested the new applications ask whether past projects were subject to any significant delays greater than six months.
“It’s important for us to know if there have been hurdles before and how they were handled,” Rasmussen said.
Tom Neal, who chairs the economic development committee, said he wanted applicants to know that answering “yes” to such probing questions would not automatically mean the proposal would be rejected. Schock responded by saying that every applicant will have the chance to explain those answers.
The new application process was approved unanimously and will go into effect immediately.