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Thomas Street project UPDATE: Mayor claims media inaccurate, President wants no repeat


WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -  Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple expressed concern about news reports published recently about the Thomas Street expansion project. Tipple called a press conference for 4:00 p.m. Thursday and handed out a packet of information, stating there are several inaccuracies in recent newspaper articles.

Tipple says they do have issues to work out with Federal Highway Administration officials, but he is convinced the city did nothing wrong. “It’s important to note that city staff did nothing wrong on the Thomas Street project. What are the next steps? We’re in the process of setting up a meeting with the D.O.T. and the Federal Highway Administration to review the process the city followed.” The Mayor says it’s possible they won’t get financial assistance from this particular federal program, but there are other programs where they can apply for federal dollars.

Mayor Tipple says they had agreements from 10 willing sellers in previous years, and there won’t be any new property purchases in 2012.

During the Capital Improvements & Street Maintenance committee meeting which started at 5:15 p.m., City Council President Lisa Rasmussen is concerned that federal highway officials believe Wausau did something wrong. “It’s apparent from the letters that were received from Federal Highway (Administration) that they believe that mistakes were made. They may not have one hundred percent of the information that we received here tonight, I’m not sure what information they got, but if that’s the case we need to take stock of that, and we need to also find a path to deal with Thomas Street but we also need to find a path to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, internally.”

Rasmussen says there may be other avenues for financing Thomas Street’s expansion. For now, the city has taken steps to insure another big project cannot encounter the same problems. That is the Highway’s U, K, and Business 51 project. “We have actually outsourced the land acquisition activities to the Department of Transportation for that project, so there are controls in place and we are working to resolve it for the future.” Committee members and Rasmussen made it clear that department heads and committee chairs need to be updated frequently on events involving this project.

One resident who spoke at the CISM Committee meeting suggested that Wausau put Mayor Tipple, Public Works Director Bradley Marquardt, and Community Development Director Ann Werth to be placed on administrative leave pending an independent audit of the project. No action was taken on that public comment.

For now, Wausau will continue to budget $100,000 for property acquisition in the 2013 budget, but it may not be spent. Rasmussen says the City Council will try to resolve the issues, but they will consider design changes and alternate funding sources if their appeal to the U.S. Department of Transportation is  unsuccessful. _______________________________________________________

The package of documents handed out during Mayor Tipple’s press conference Thursday 11/8/12 is attached to this story as a PDF file above. It includes a list of issues he believes were inaccurately reported by the Wausau Daily Herald, timelines, past meeting minutes, the letters from the Federal Highway Administration and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, along with other items pertaining to the project.

You can listen to WSAU’s interview with Lisa Rasmussen and Mayor Jim Tipple’s press conference by clicking on the applications above.

The Wausau website with Thomas Street plans is at the following link: http://www.ci.wausau.wi.us/Departments/Planning/StreetandHighway/ThomasStreet.aspx