NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Renovations on Wausau’s downtown 400-block will probably start in September. The city’s Finance Committee voted to add the project to the city budget for the fall. Full City Council approval will probably come at their next meeting. The city will only have to pay about $200,000. Another $1-million has been raised through private donations and grants.
There’s one thing that’s being forgotten in the process. A majority of Wausau residents don’t want anything done to the 400-block. Every time the city does any kind of survey, “leave it alone” is the most popular response.
I don’t think this is a simple case of majority rules. People who have the biggest stake in the 400-block are the merchants who have stores in the immediate area, and groups that use the public square for their events. Perhaps their opinions should be given extra weight. They’ve been the people pushing for the more elaborate, more expensive changes.
Because they don’t have majority support, most of their ideas should not move forward. We’ve seen super-expensive plans for clock towers and elliptical walkways, and landscape redesigns that would change the very character of the space. The citizenry doesn’t want that, and it shouldn’t be forced on them. The one change that does make sense is a permanent stage. Temporary staging gets used dozens of times over the course of a year. It needs to be set up and torn down. It’s somewhat unsightly. A stage makes sense. Some minor landscaping is also not objectionable. Since the city did away with the pedestrian mall, there’s more traffic in the area. A low brick wall or shrubs at the corner entrances to the block would create a buffer for the area and would screen out some of the parked cars. It’s a reasonable and inexpensive idea.
But what about an interactive fountain? Someone, somewhere is aggressively pushing for this idea. It keeps cropping up in each renovation plan for the block. There is no public support for it; this is someone’s pet project. Yes, private donations will cover the cost. But Wausau is a cold-weather environment for most of the year and the city will bare the maintenance costs. We already have other fountains in the area that are expensive to maintain and unsightly when broken. And, at the end of the day, this is a proposal that takes up public space in an area that the majority wants left alone.
Drop the fountain from the renovation plan. Whoever supports it should realize that they’re already being allowed to do more to the 400-block than most people want them to. Don’t take advantage of it.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau