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County committee discusses Brokaw's financial crisis

by
Brokaw Mill
Brokaw Mill

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The financial crisis for the Village of Brokaw is continuing to generate conversation with Marathon County officials.

Brokaw’s loss of the Wausau Paper mill in February of 2012 is the hurt that won’t go away. Nearly 450 workers lost their jobs, mostly because of lower demand for printing and writing papers due to increased use of electronic devices. The village spent a lot of money in sewer and water infrastructure to handle the mill’s needs. Now, they have more capacity and more debt than they need.

Jim Rosenberg is on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, and says the county’s Executive Committee discussed the Brokaw situation again Wednesday. He says a suggestion to seek proposals didn’t get support.  “The Education & Economic Development Committee (chairman) had suggested going with a request for proposals and getting a study, gathering facts and options. The Executive Committee wasn’t ready to go that far yet.”

Rosenberg believes the next thing is to bring several area leaders together to discuss the issues.  “I think where we’re headed is probably with some kind of a facilitated discussion that would involve the two townships, the Town of Maine and the Town of Texas, Village of Brokaw, possibly the city of Wausau because there’s been some interest indicated there, and also the county, to see where we might find some options and get a good idea of the conditions, and where we might go.”

Rosenberg says he and others believe the Brokaw situation is highly unusual and would benefit from state assistance to help turn it around.  “The state has always worked hard to get people back up. Flambeau Papers in Park Falls was one of those things where people got together, but this one is a little bit more complicated because we have the utility extension for water that was very expensive, we have a tax increment finance (TIF) district out in Brokaw, and that creates a whole set of issues, and so I think it might be a unique blend.”

Some may believe Brokaw’s problem doesn’t affect them elsewhere in Marathon County, but Rosenberg believes it’s a regional issue that affects development in the area. He says if Brokaw were forced to dissolve, the problems and the debt don’t simply go away.  “At that point, the property that’s occupied by the Village of Brokaw would go back to the original townships together with a portion of debt, whatever falls to them, and so the townships aren’t really in a position to necessarily handle that debt load any better, and of course they had nothing to do with accumulating it.”

Rosenberg believes Marathon County’s administration team will be charged with bringing area community leaders to the same table to discuss the issues and possible solutions. That meeting has not yet been arranged. There is no specific plan drafted, and no county board action planned in the immediate future.

(Listen to our interview with Jim Rosenberg on our website, here.)

 

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