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Riverlife Villages project tally exceeds $4 million, before lien satisfaction

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — As city leaders mull a settlement proposal to satisfy contractor liens totaling about $2.7 million in connection with the troubled Riverlife Villages Phase I project, city records show the city’s expenditures have already exceeded $4 million.

The Wausau City Council was set to review that proposal Tuesday, Feb. 12, but the council’s regularly scheduled meeting has been postponed for one week due to inclement weather. The meeting will now be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in council chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.

If the council approves paying the entire amount of two liens filed by The Samuels Group, that will put the taxpayers’ investment into the project at more than $6.8 million. That amount does not include additional expenses such as closing costs and environmental mediation, nor does it include lien amounts from at least one additional prime contractor embroiled in the project.

Gorman & Company anticipates using $1.3 million in equity and $5.7 million in loans to complete the roughly $7 million project. The company, chosen late last year to take over the project, is seeking the property from the city for the purchase price of $1.

City leaders say satisfying the liens is a critical next step in allowing the project to move forward.

Planning for the east side riverfront transformation has long been in the works. The city in 1995 began buying up properties along the river, cleaning up contaminated land and preparing the area for future development.

In all, the city has so far spent $3,455,500 on property purchases related to the riverfront, including $2.6 million for the 16-acre parcel currently being developed. That property was purchased from MCDEVCO in 2011, according to City Finance Director MaryAnne Groat.

Land acquisition details are as follows:

Land acquisition purchases by the city of Wausau related to Riverlife. Source: City of Wausau

In response to an open records request, Groat this week provided a list of all monies paid to date for Riverlife Villages expenses. Those expenses total $548,215.93, more than half of which was paid for architectural services.

The list of RIverlife Villages expenses paid to date are as follows, according to city records provided Feb. 11, 2019 by Groat:

Riverlife Villages expenses as of Feb. 11, 2019. Source: City of Wausau

Liens from The Samuels Group, the primary contractor on the project, were filed Sept. 19 in Marathon County Circuit Court for $704,372.65 and $2,092,780.45. Both liens name the city, which owns the land.

In addition to the Samuels Group, Ayres and Associates, an Eau Claire firm that was contracted directly by the former 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.

City documents show Wausau paid Ayres $13,500 for “private site work” and $60,450 for work on engineering at Fulton Street connected to the project.

Several additional subcontractor liens have also been filed.

In addition to a presentation on a settlement proposal from The Samuels Group, the council next week is also set to go into closed session to confer with legal counsel regarding “amendments to approved lien settlements” related to Riverlife.

Details on the settlement proposal are not in the public packet for the meeting as of Tuesday, Feb. 12.

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