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Council tables CARE proposal

(This is the third in a series of three articles regarding the neighborhood revitalization effort in Wausau, Wisconsin. To view the other aticles, click on the links below the article.)

The Wausau City Council postponed a vote Tuesday on a new neighborhood renewal effort to give Mayor Linda Lawrence and other organizers time to provide more information about the initiative.

The council was scheduled to decide whether to accept a $125,000 interest-free state loan to purchase and renovate a building that would serve as the home base for the Core Area Renewal Effort, or CARE, which was launched by City Hall officials in September to address crime and deterioration in the city's central neighborhoods.

A resolution on the purchase likely would have failed if the vote had proceeded Tuesday night. Instead, Alderman Ed Gale proposed and the council approved a motion to bring the issue back for discussion at the council's Feb. 10 meeting.

Lawrence, in the meantime, plans to convene a meeting in January to further explain CARE's goals and methods to council members, community leaders, landlords, city residents and anyone else with questions.

More than 50 people attended the Tuesday council meeting, many of them landlords. John Fischer, vice president of the Wausau Area Apartment Association, spoke on behalf of the landlords to say that they felt excluded from discussions and targeted by some of the CARE proposals, in particular plans to expand the city's inspections program.

"I believe that CARE is a good concept. However, in its current design, I think it's likely to fail," Fischer told the council.

Yet he and several council members were encouraged by a presentation made before the council meeting by organizers of Free to Grow, an independent initiative already working to improve living conditions in a small neighborhood on Wausau's east side.

Members of the CARE team, which includes City Hall officials, community leaders and city residents, want to expand the Free to Grow program over a larger area and continue the effort after Free to Grow's grant funding runs out in 2005.

Few council members outright opposed CARE and its goal of neighborhood renewal, yet the purchase of an east-side building to house offices for a program coordinator and neighborhood police officer raised more questions than Lawrence was able to answer.

"Free to Grow has a methodology ... and they know where they're going. We don't," Gale said. "I think we need to take time to do it right."
Marty Welles, the only council member to vote against delaying action on the CARE building, said he objected to the city buying a building but not to the push for cleaning up the city's central neighborhoods.

"I want to see this CARE program move forward. I don't want to buy the building," Welles said.

He and others have voiced concerns about the building's location, the loss of property tax revenues from the building, the ability of the city to sell it afterward and whether the space could be found in City Hall or another building already owned by the city.

But some say the program itself is an unnecessary duplication of services already provided by other agencies and organizations.

Patrick Adams, 37, who is running against Welles for the District 5 council seat next year, said that the CARE initiative was one of the reasons he decided to enter the race.

"We have got to stop it. It's just more government getting into our daily lives and we don't need it," he said after attending the council meeting.

Lawrence was disappointed but not discouraged by the delay in action on the initiative. After CARE suffered setbacks due mostly to lack of communication and information, she has opened discussions up more to council members in an attempt to get them on board.

"The message I got loud and clear was there's not major opposition to what we're trying to do," Lawrence said after the meeting on Tuesday.

Landlords question need for CARE - Landlords expected to oppose renewal plan, December 14, 2003

Council must build support for plan, December 15, 2003

(Written by David Paulsen,, December 17, 2003 and reprinted with permission from Wausau Daily Herald)


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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.