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Haupt: Consider the upsides of Wausau-Brokaw merger (column)

6:14 PM, Jul. 18, 2013  |  Comments
Wausau Paper's Brokaw mill, photographed, Tuesday, October 25, 2011. Dan Young/Wausau Daily Herald
Wausau Paper's Brokaw mill, photographed, Tuesday, October 25, 2011. Dan Young/Wausau Daily Herald
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As a resident of Brokaw, I support the effort by Wausau City Council member Keene Winters and former Brokaw Village President Adam Dykman to open the dialog for a possible Wausau-Brokaw merger.

How Brokaw got into the position it's in, with mounting debt and falling population, doesn't need to be rehashed. But to say we don't want to change and are not willing to listen makes no sense. To dismiss the idea of a merger without a fair hearing is short-sighted.

Is the priority saving Brokaw - the people and place - or is the priority saving the village of Brokaw's unit of government? A name doesn't make a neighborhood or community; the people and place do. Brokaw will always be known as Brokaw just as Riverview is still known as Riverview decades after it was annexed to Wausau. Merger or not, Brokaw's view, recreational opportunities, and its history will remain.

Negative press isn't stifling village growth. It's the economics that keep new homes and businesses away. There are a lot of places to locate with lower taxes and water rates that will yield better property values. As I see it Brokaw has three options.

? Do nothing and hope everything works out. The likely result would be the village defaulting, declaring bankruptcy and having its debt restructured. Delaying simply increases the Village's liabilities.

? Dissolve the village and set up an independent water /sanitary district. The lower village would revert to the town of Texas and the upper village to the town of Maine. Each township would have to assume the appropriate percentage of the village debt.

? Brokaw merge with Wausau. An independent Brokaw water/sanitary district could be set up that is run and managed by the city. The current city water/sanitary customer's rates would be unaffected, and village customers could see lower rates because of cost savings from reduced overhead. Additionally, Village residents would see their taxes lowered and become more stable. This will cause home values to increase to fair market values.

A Wausau resident who says Brokaw has too much debt misses what Brokaw has to offer. The Highway 51 interchange with Highway K interchange is being rebuilt and several car dealerships have moved there. Wausau is "landlocked," hemmed in by its south metro suburbs - but it has room to grow to the north.

Wausau would gain a new water tower, a newer sewage treatment plant plus the entire existing infrastructure and customers. There is an existing rail siding, an industrial park next to the freeway and several village-owned, developable residential parcels.

The village's $4.5 million debt is a bargain for the city, which is more than offset by the more than $50 million in village assets that would be gained.

As Dykman and Winters pointed out, all four municipalities could enter into a cooperative plan that could benefit all. It does deserve a fair hearing!

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