By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU, Wis. — Citing the lack of a clear plan, some members of the city’s economic development committee were sharply critical Tuesday of a proposal calling for Wausau to sell the former Sears space at Wausau Center mall to a local developer.
The plan, unveiled late last week, calls for Secure Fund LLC to purchase the vacant storefront for $700,000 and asks for a 9 percent tax increment funding payment on the total project costs, among other stipulations. But Secure Fund’s proposal did not state any clear future use for the space, something Council President Lisa Rasmussen took exception to.
“It’s like negotiating a deal with only 40 percent of the facts, handing it over for whatever use they come up with,” Rasmussen said. “It’s backward.”
During Tuesday’s economic development committee meeting, Rasmussen told Economic Development Director Chris Schock the project should have been fleshed out before even being included in the packet for consideration. Rasmussen said simply selling the property for more than what the city paid is contradictory to the reason Wausau bought the property in the first place.
“People will see on the 10 o’clock news that we made steps to sell off Sears and then ask me tomorrow what it’s going to be and all I can say is, ‘I don’t know, but I’m sure it will be great?’” Rasmussen said. “I’ll look like an idiot that doesn’t know enough to get all the facts before I make a decision. Do we want to be seen as idiots?”
Mayor Rob Mielke, during the meeting, said the city isn’t pushing to rid themselves of the property they purchased in 2017 for $650,000 but recommended selling the property to let “someone else take the reins.”
Since the city’s 2017 purchase of the building, the property has essentially been off the city’s — and county’s — tax rolls. In 2016, the property was assessed at $4 million and generated $101,023.81 in property taxes. Of that, $38,698.07 went to the city of Wausau, according to the Marathon County Land Records system.
Schock told the committee the proposal is a preliminary one. The proposal under review called for giving the developer nine months to come up with a plan which would later be reviewed.
But after going into closed session, the committee took no action on the plan but directed city staff to continue working with Secure Fund for a more solid concept.