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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee Gets $885,438 Community Center Grant

Issue Date: August 26, 2020

Some big things are happening or about to happen in Wausaukee. On Friday, Aug. 21 Village President Pat Tracy was notified by Wisconsin Department of Administration's (DOA) Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources that the the village's application for up to $885,438 in Community Development Block Grant funding for Public Facilities (CDBG-PF) has been approved.

The money is to be used to help convert the former Stephenson National Bank Building on Main Street (Hwy. 141 in the village) into a combination community center, library and village hall. The DOA division also approved Marinette County's assignment of $453,000 of its CDBG-CLOSE account to the Wausaukee project. That decision had previously been approved by Marinette County Board as a good use of the money left from its CDBG grant program that was being closed out by state and federal governments.

The two grants total the estimated $1.34 million cost of the remodeling project, meaning no local taxpayer dollars should be required. The bank had agreed to sell the currently vacant building to the village at a very low price in anticipation of its successful conversion to its intended new use.

The CDBG grant award to Wausaukee and approval of the county's decision to award CLOSE grant money for the project was announced by County Administrator John LeFebvre at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 25. LeFebvre said approval of the $1.339 project "is huge" for the village of Wausaukee, and puts a highly visible vacant commercial building in its main business district to a good use, which is good for the county. He and praised the work of Consultant Jim Frymark of Cedar Corp in connection with the project design and the successful grant application.

LeFebvre had recommended the project as a good use of "CLOSE" funds - money left in county CDBG programs which were closed by the state and federal government programs that had provided the money through grant programs in the first place.

In a totally unrelated development, at a 6 p.m. special session following a 5 p.m. Plan Commission meeting and public hearing on Monday, Aug. 24, the Village Board, with one opposing vote, approved a Conditional Use Permit allowing construction of a Dollar General Store on three lots between 831 and 903 Main Street, which is on the east side of Hwy. 141 at its intersection with Fairgrounds Road.

The new Dollar General Store will be built several blocks north of the corner occupied by Family Dollar on the west side of Hwy. 141 and Sal's Food Center supermarket on the east. Trustee Derek McGee cast the sole opposing vote. At the public hearing, Michael Sarvello, owner of Sal's, had spoken in opposition to granting the permit, and predicted that if he sold his supermarket the village would lose his store in about a decade, leaving residents with no place in the village to buy fresh meats, vegetables, fruits and other items. Others on the Plan Commission and village board expressed hope that having another business in the village will help Sals and other businesses by encouraging more people to shop in Wausaukee rather than going to Crivitz, Marinette and Iron Mountain.

Members of the Plan Commission present were Lisa Tracy, Dave Messar, Trustee Steve Stumbris, Trustee Joanne Polomis and Chair Ruth Jicha. Pullen participated in the proceedings via telephone.

Meanwhile, work on improvements at Evergreen Park that includes increasing the number of campsites from eight to 38 and providing the 30 new sites with amenities like electricity, is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1. That project is partly funded by a $300,000 grant from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stewardship program, and Pullen said cost is more than anticipated, but it has been estimated that the extra money generated by those who use the campsites should pay for the project in about six years.

The good news for the village doesn't end there, according Village Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Sara Pullen. The village applied earlier this year to the Wisconsin Safe Drinking Water Loan Program for funds to help pay the $1,124,450 cost to construct a new well, well house and water treatment facility, and Pullen believes chances are excellent that application will be successful.

In 2018 Wausaukee had been awarded a $500,000 grant to be used toward the well project, which left $624,450 to be hopefully obtained as a loan from the Wisconsin Safe Drinking Water loan program. Chances are good the loan will be approved, and up to 60 percent of the amount received will be "forgiven" reducing local share to about $350,000.

Pullen said this is an extremely competitive program. For this cycle, a total of 62 applicant communities from all over Wisconsin sought a total of $52 million in loans, but only $26 million was available. While neither the loan nor the forgiveness amount has been finalized yet, Pullen has been told applicants with the highest scores have the best chance of getting the loans, and also have the best chance of getting partial forgiveness, which can be as much as 60 percent of the total loan amount. And Wausaukee has the highest score.

When the scores were announced on Friday, Aug. 21, Wausaukee was at the top of the list, Pullen said. If the village gets the full 60 percent forgiveness of the $624,450 financing needed, it would leave only about $350,000 for the village to repay. Consultants for Cedar Corp, which helped with the entire project and funding applications, have told her they believe the extremely high score means the village has an excellent chance of getting the loan and perhaps also the full 60 percent loan forgiveness.

Wausaukee's score is 387. Next closest were the villages of Arlington and Bruce, with 331 and 119 respectively, and then the Cities of Two Rivers and Pewaukee, with scores of 107 and 102. All other scores were below 100, with a Village of Oliver project at the bottom with a score of 14.

"The fact we have been preparing for this for nearly two years, and that we did the feasibility study ahead of time helped greatly with our score," Pullen commented.

In the Aug. 21 e-mail to Tracy announcing the CDBG awards for the community Center, Susan Brown, Administrator of the Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources for the DOA, wrote:

"Thank you for your recent Community Development Block Grant for Public Facilities (CDBG-PF) project proposal to convert a vacant downtown commercial building into a new community center. On behalf of Governor Tony Evers and Secretary Joel Brennan, I am pleased to inform you that the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) will award up to $885,438.00 in CDBG-PF funds and $453,987.00 in CDBG CLOSE funds to the Village of Wausaukee for this CDBG-PF project."

The letter continued, "The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides federal funding to states through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Wisconsin uses this federal funding to provide affordable housing, suitable living environments, and expanded economic opportunities for persons with low and moderate incomes.

"To ensure that your CDBG Application meets federal HUD regulations and program goals, the DOA Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources (DEHCR) has reviewed and scored your Grant Application using the 2020 CDBG-PF competitive application criteria."

A Scoring Summary sheet for the grant application was included, as was information regarding CDBG requirements and documentation that must now be submitted. The e-mail also cautioned that certain compliance requirements must be met and the grant agreement must be executed before starting any construction for the project and asked the village to delay any public announcement of the grant award until the State has an opportunity to publicly announce the grants awarded.

"Again, congratulations and thank you for your efforts in helping our communities prosper and maintain a high quality of life for all Wisconsin residents," Brown concluded.

Pullen said the Community Center will not be a gymnasium workout-type facility like the Community Center at Crivitz. It will be handicap accessible and hopefully able to host recreational programs, including recreational programs for the elderly. There is currently no public facility in Wausaukee that can be rented or used for major gatherings - events like wedding celebrations, graduation parties, businesses events and such. There will be the library, plus meeting space, office space, and a full kitchenette, Pullen said."


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