By Shereen Siewert

A Wausau food truck owner who is asking the city to help finance a new west side restaurant was caught earlier this year stealing about $429 worth of food, supplies and electronics from a Rib Mountain business, according to a Marathon County Sheriff’s Department incident report.

As a first-time offender Clinton T. Schultz, 47, entered into a deferred prosecution on May 16, according to Ruth Heinzl, program coordinator with the Marathon County District Attorney’s office. The pre-charge agreement means that if Schultz completes 60 hours of community service, pays all restitution owed and complies with any other recommendations by his case manager he will not have a criminal theft charge on his record, Heinzl said.

According to the incident report, representatives from a Rib Mountain business on April 2 called police after staff members observed Schultz trying to leave the store without paying for several packages of cucumbers, cauliflower, garlic, vinyl gloves, battery chargers and electronic cables. When police arrived, a member of the management team told police she was already reviewing video of Schultz from earlier visits as part of an ongoing investigation she was conducting.

After reviewing video of past visits by Schultz, the manager discovered Schultz had taken additional items, including a Bose Mini and Bose Surround Sound speakers on different dates without paying for them. The total documented loss is $429.03, according to the report.

After initially denying the allegations, Schultz told the investigating officer he has been limited regarding his funds and was trying to put together an entertainment center with the Bose speakers, the report stated.

City leaders are in the process of reviewing Schultz’s July 16 application for a low-interest commercial rehabilitation loan of $125,000 to defray the cost of a planned outdoor patio, window replacement, roof repair, door replacement and parking lot landscaping. Commercial rehabilitation loans aim to “to stimulate rehabilitation and redevelopment of commercial real estate within downtown Wausau,” according to city documents. The loans, which are maintained and monitored by the finance department and reviewed by the city’s economic development committee, carry a 1.5 percent interest rate with payments deferred for one year.

Schultz told members of the economic development committee in August he was in an “excellent position to tentatively set a closing date” with a local bank to complete the purchase. Schultz said then he was waiting for revised estimates from contractors that reflect changes in his plans for the property, which have been downsized to their original state.

The initial project called for the former West Side Battery building at 415 S. First Ave. to become a 99-seat Urban Street Bistro restaurant. Then valued at about $600,000, the project asked for a $100,000 commercial loan and a $150,000 MCDEVCO commercial equipment loan, while purchasing the property from the city for $225,000.

But what began as a basic remodel later developed into a much more ambitious project with an estimated value of more than $2 million. Those plans, which included a brew pub, have now been scuttled in favor of a scaled-down project.

During the August meeting Economic Development Director Chris Schock said the city’s commercial rehabilitation loans do not require a business plan or three years of tax returns. Instead, those loans are based on expected improvements being performed on the property, and act as a second mortgage. The loan won’t be granted unless financing for the rest of the project is in place.

The meeting devolved into a sharp back-and-forth exchange between Economic Development Committee Chair Tom Neal, who said such loans are “tantamount to an infrastructure improvement,” and Wausau resident Deb Ryan, who was sharply critical of the process when she briefly took to the podium to speak.

“You’re not doing your homework, and in my opinion you are being negligent,” Ryan told the committee in August.

Neal then demanded Ryan step away from the podium and be seated.

“We are doing our due diligence,” Neal said.

Committee members ultimately tabled the discussion until September to give Schultz time to gather his estimates and set a closing date for the sale.

The project involves two parcels of property, both which are owned by the city. City leaders in September 2016 purchased the West Side Battery property for $200,000 using a loan made by the Judd S. Alexander Foundation. The adjoining parcel, the former home of L&S Printing, was sold to the city in 2014 for $190,000, also with a loan from the Judd S. Alexander Foundation.

The purchase price was amended last year to $235,947 to allow the city to recoup real estate taxes on the property for 2017, and has since been amended to $246,895 to reflect property taxes that the city would have collected for 2018 if the sale had closed as scheduled. The tax amount was based on an assessment completed before the city acquired the property, according to figures provided previously by Schock.

Schultz’s plan was the only proposal the city received after issuing a request for proposals to develop the property. So far, the property has not changed hands.

City Council President Lisa Rasmussen said she was surprised and disappointed to hear of Schultz’s arrest, which could have an impact on the public portion of the project.

“…his plan may need re evaluation, as there will be further questions by all involved about his ability to complete and carry out the project,” Rasmussen said.

If Schultz is unable to complete the project, the building could be offered up for a new request for proposals if the economic development committee chooses, Rasmussen said.

“This is exactly why Wausau does not close on properties before all facets of the deal are worked out and under a development agreement,” Rasmussen said. “Had we transferred the property too soon, there would be little or no recourse.”

Mayor Robert Mielke, Schock, and Neal were each contacted seeking comment for this story but did not issue a response.