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OPINION - Wasteful

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) When money is wasted, the result is “what might have been” syndrome. People with other ideas that require funding will point to the boondoggle and say that their project could have taken flight if scarce dollars weren’t squandered.

Wausau deserves exactly that type of criticism with the Highway 52 bird sculpture project.

The city is debating an ill-advised landlord licensing program because they city is failing with its building inspection program. The $110,000 wasted on birdification could have hired two inspectors.

The city has seen an increase in heroin abuse and gang activity. The bird money could have hired and trained at least one full-time police officer. It could have funding another drug-sniffing dog.

The city has a blight problem. The money could demolish 5 or 6 abandoned homes and clear that land for redevelopment.

The Wausau Daily Herald argues, incorrectly in my opinion, that the project does improve the aesthetics for those arriving into town on Stewart Avenue. They also say the cost of the project is so small that it’s negligible in the face of the overall city budget. Well that argument could be used to justify almost anything. Follow that reasoning and any hair-brained project below a certain dollar amount could be green-lighted.

Now there’s a new twist. The city included an irrigation system to keep the grass around the bird sculptures green and lush. But the city forgot to extend the water lines to the median of the roadway. A separate contractor will come in next spring to finish the job. And, of course, it begs the question that why are other medians greened by rain water, but the bird sculpture median requires metered municipal water?

The answer is that the city can’t even do a good job at wasting the taxpayers’ money.

Chris Conley
11.6.13