By Owen Reissmann for Wausau Pilot and Review

During a public hearing at Thursday’s Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee meeting, a few representatives of the project, several neighboring businesses, and several residents came forward to share their opinions regarding closure of the 200 block of McIndoe Street to accommodate a $40 million downtown Woodson YMCA expansion and new Aspirus facility.

Committee member Lisa Rasmussen spoke of potential rerouting to a modified Scott Street with two wider traffic lanes and modifications to Fulton, including lighting and extension. She pointed out that the Jefferson Street Inn involved road closure as well and that hasn’t been a big deal.

People just don’t like change, Rasmussen said.

She said that because the YMCA has already acquired the land for the project that land will either sit fallow or go off the tax rolls if this project doesn’t go through.

Committee member Mary Thao asked that those claiming the project will attract and retain young professionals and families consider the demographics of those who will have access. There are many people in this community who do not have access to healthcare and living wages. Without living wages young professionals and families are less likely to choose to live here.

Lisa Rasmussen then inquired as to whether holding off on approving this item would delay the project or affect costs.

Wausau Public Works Director Eric Lindman, who has spoken with the DOT, opined that it is very likely the plan will be approved by the DOT.

Chuck Ghidorzi, the developer spearheading the project, insisted the DOT would look favorably on the plan if the city showed leadership by approving the vacation of the city block. He asserted to the committee, “You need to step up, and you need to move this forward. It’s that simple.”

Mary Thao reminded the committee of previous decisions the city has rushed into and issues it is still dealing with as a result, such as those involving the Thomas Street renovation. She urged the rest of the committee to follow the appropriate process and not operate without all the information.

Despite her pleas, the rest of the committee voted in favor of vacation and closure of the 200 block of McIndoe contingent on DOT approval.