By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the Wausau City Council on Tuesday will review details of a settlement proposal to satisfy multiple contractor liens totaling about $2.7 million filed in connection with the stalled Riverlife Villages Phase I project.
The Samuels Group, Inc., of Wausau, notified the city Aug. 3 by registered letter delivered to Mayor Rob Mielke and to City Clerk Toni Rayala outlining the intention to file a lien against Wausau based on providing materials that improved city property, according to court documents. The city had 30 days to respond or satisfy the debt. The liens were filed Sept. 19 in Marathon County Circuit Court for $704,372.65 and $2,092,780.45.
A presentation on the proposal by the Samuels Group is on the group’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, but no additional details have been included in the public information packet posted online. The meeting, which is open to the public and will also be televised on Wausau’s Public Access channel, is slated for 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant Street. The Samuels Group is the primary contractor for the project, which ground to a halt last spring amid financial difficulties by the project’s former developer.
The council is also set to go into closed session to confer with legal counsel regarding “amendments to approved lien settlements” related to Riverlife.
Responding to a Jan. 21 open records request, City Attorney Anne Jacobson said her office did not have any contractor invoices or work records by Samuels or any other lien holder to justify the amounts being sought for improvements made on the property, which the city purchased for $2.6 million in 2011.
“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 explained, in a Jan. 22 email.
In addition to the Samuels Group, Ayres and Associates, an Eau Claire firm that was contracted directly by the development team to design and install a geopier foundation system for the project, filed a primary contractor lien Aug. 30 in Marathon County Circuit Court for $38,503.84. Court documents show Ayres performed work valued at $120,590.17 and has so far been paid $83,086.33. The construction lien names Wausau Riverlife, LLC and Barker Financial, LLC.
Several additional subcontractor liens have also been filed. Satisfying the liens would clear the way for Gorman & Company to assume control of the project this spring.
Under the terms of a preliminary agreement approved in January that would move the project forward, 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 in early January. 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.
The city council in 2015 approved about $2.25 million in loans for phase one of the project and $500,000 in grants for the building foundations, all of which would come from a special tax district. Since then, the project has undergone a variety of changes in financial and development partners and has been mired in financial and legal snags.
Wausau Pilot and Review has submitted an open records requests asking for a list of all city payments related to the project to date.
As of late 2018, the city had so far funded $372,462 toward the project as part of a pre-development loan, an amount for which the city has a “personal guarantee” in place by Mike Frantz of Quantum Ventures, Jacobson said last year.
Frantz, however, is no longer connected to the project and has been mired in a series of financial and legal complications in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Florida.