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City balks on payment schedule for Riverlife

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Members of the Wausau City Council on Tuesday voted to authorize former Riverlife partner Barker Financial, LLC, to pay $450,000 to partially satisfy more than $2.5 million in liens associated with the stalled east riverfront development, but balked at a payment schedule proposed by the project’s prime contractor.

A representative from The Samuels Group spoke Tuesday to request the city issue a partial payment this week as part of an already agreed-upon settlement deal, the terms of which have not been disclosed to taxpayers. Samuels, the prime contractor for the project, also requested that a final payment for monies owed be paid no later than April 1.

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.

The council ultimately rejected the Samuels Group’s request after a closed session meeting. A proposed stipulation by Dist. 1 Alderman Pat Peckham to require Barker Financial to split the $450,000 between The Samuels Group, The Ayres Group, and Mudrovich & Associates failed to receive a second and was not considered.

It is unclear why Mudrovich & Associates is one of the three contractors singled out by Peckham in his motion. City documents show the firm has received $290,078.50 for architectural work on the project but has not filed any court action.

Ayres, 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.

Dist. 11 Alderman Dennis Smith said he feels compassion for The Samuels Group, but voted to withhold payment until the city has a developer agreement in place with newly appointed Gorman & Co. to resume work on the project.

Becky McElhaney, who represents Dist. 6, agreed with Smith and voted against the amendment.

“I understand that Samuels is in a pinch, but we did not put them there,” McElhaney said. “I made a promise to my residents and I’m standing by that.”

Council President Lisa Rasmussen stressed that the council’s authorization is only for Barker Financial to pay money they already owe to Samuels.

“This is not the city cutting a check on a set schedule or deadline,” Rasmussen said. “This would be deducted from the sum total of the agreement reached with Samuels.”

City records show the city’s expenditures for Riverlife have already exceeded $4 million, the bulk of which was spent on property acquisition.

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.

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