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Legal bills mount in Riverlife negotiations

in Investigations/News

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Wausau taxpayers are footing the bill for nearly $79,000 in outside legal fees related to the stalled Riverlife Phase I development with additional invoices on the way, according to city records.

On Jan. 8, city leaders finalized plans to satisfy an estimated $2.5 million in liens associated with the development, clearing the way for Gorman & Company to assume control of the project this spring. In a response to an open records request, Wausau Pilot and Review learned that Wausau has so far paid outside law firm Quarles & Brady $78,671.51 for professional services connected to Riverlife, for work performed through Nov. 30, 2018.

As of Jan. 24, 2019, the city paid $71,962.01 to Quarles & Brady for invoices billed under “Frantz Community Investors Development Agreement.” An additional $6,709.50 was paid to Quarles & Brady for professional services which were billed under “Riverlife Phase I (2018 RFP), according to City Attorney Anne Jacobson.

Much of the final work on the agreement to clear the liens and resume the project was performed in December and January, which means additional funds will be committed.

Wausau Pilot and Review is also seeking contractor invoices or work records submitted by lien holders to substantiate lien payments on the project. Jacobson said her office does not have any such records.

“Those lien holders, to date, to my knowledge, have not filed foreclosure actions, and so we received only the notices of intent to file liens and the lien claims with the totals in them,” Jacobson said.

Marathon County Circuit Court records show the liens remain unsatisfied as of Jan. 24.

Under the terms of the agreement approved Jan. 8 by the Wausau City Council, former development partner Barker Financial will also be required to repay about $450,000 in loans and other unspecified costs.

Members of the economic development committee in November chose Gorman & Company to resume construction on the project, a decision that was finalized by the full council earlier this month. The company, which is headquartered in Oregon, Wis., was chosen in favor of Riverlife Wausau, LLC, a local development partnership between Bob Ohde Construction, Mitch Viegut and Dr. Fernando Riveron.

Gorman & Company’s application, dated Sept. 25, outlines a plan to purchase the 1.8 acre property from the city for $1 to build the 38,000-square-foot building for both apartments and commercial use. The company anticipates using $1.3 million in equity and $5.7 million in loans to complete the roughly $7 million project.

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