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UPDATE: Riverlife Village construction liens top $2.7 million

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Editor’s Note: Wausau Pilot and Review initially reported that liens totaled $5.5 million but has now learned the liens against each LLC are identical, leaving the amount owed as $2,797,153.10.

By Shereen Siewert

UPDATE — Four construction liens totaling more than $2.7 million were filed Monday in Marathon County Circuit Court surrounding the Riverlife Village project, with an additional $134,149 lien expected by the end of the month.

The Samuels Group, the prime contractor for the multi-million dollar redevelopment, filed all four liens. Two liens totaling $2,797,153.10 are filed naming Quantum Ventures, LLC, which now lists a Milwaukee address, while two separate liens for the identical amount are filed against Barker Financial, LLC, with an office in Iowa.

On April 10 the Samuels Group, the prime contractor for Phase I of Riverlife, sent letters of intent to the city of Wausau indicating an unpaid debt of $1,785,885.89 incurred in the project, according to City Attorney Anne Jacobson. PGA Inc., a subcontractor working on the project, sent letters on April 28 and May 4 claiming they are owed $134,149. The city was given 30 days to cure the debt.

The city was served with those papers because Wausau owns the land, Jacobson said.

Wausau Pilot and Review has also learned that Barker Financial — not Quantum Ventures — remains the developer of record on the project.

That revelation is taking some city council members and taxpayers by surprise, as the city on Jan. 9 appeared to approve a change in the developer from Barker to Quantum Ventures. But neither a signed exit agreement with Barker nor a signed developer agreement with Quantum has ever been executed.

Jacobson explained that the action the council took in January followed the resolution included in the packet: “BE IT RESOLVED, that the Mayor and other proper city officials are authorized and directed to work on behalf of the City of Wausau to amend the existing development agreement and groundlease to include Quantum Ventures.”

“Barker is not off the hook,” Jacobson said.

As recently as May 7, Economic Development Director Chris Schock told residents at the Longfellow Neighborhood Group meeting that the project is on schedule and construction, which has been stalled for months, would resume within days.

One day later, the council went into closed session to discuss legal strategy with respect to the Riverlife Village, but did not take action.

The city has so far funded $372,462 toward the project as part of a pre-development loan, according to Finance Director Maryanne Groat. The bulk of that number, $290,078.50, was paid to Mudrovich Architects of Wausau for design and engineering costs, Groat said. The remainder was split between Baker Tilly and Ayers & Associates.

The city has a “personal guarantee” for that amount from Mike Frantz and his wife, Jacobson said, and has not paid out any additional funds.

In an email Monday to Wausau Pilot and Review, City Council President Lisa Rasmussen said the city remains committed to the project and to protecting the rights of the city under a contract specifically designed to protect its investment while recognizing the rights of those working on the project.

“Given the legal terms of both, we continue to review options to address the matter and move the project forward,” Rasmussen wrote. “However at this point, those legal discussions remain in closed session to insure the city’s strategic position is protected.”

The first phase of the Riverlife project, a multi-phase development of a roughly 16-acre parcel along the river’s edge, includes incentives of about $2.74 million in grants and loans to support the developer and $2.27 million in infrastructure costs. Construction is underway, and Quantum Ventures representatives reported having secured letters of commitment for five apartments, a condo, a townhouse, and 17,000 square feet of commercial space to be leased.

Wausau Pilot and Review has also reached out to Mayor Rob Mielke, Economic Development Director Chris Schock, and Economic Development Committee Chair Tom Neal for comment and will update this story with their responses.

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