WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - It’s a tale of two cities... or shall we say a village and a city? Two people say combining them would be good for both.
Keene Winters is a Wausau businessman and alderman. He and former Brokaw Village President Adam Dykman are proposing that Brokaw and Wausau take a serious look at merging to two municipalities.
Brokaw is the small town with the big employer that closed the doors. Wausau is the bigger city which Winters says hasn’t done much growing for a while.
Winters says the financial debt load left for Brokaw’s small tax base makes it hard for residents, and even harder to attract new business. “I think Brokaw is really in a hard spot. You lose a mill that produced 450 jobs in a community of 251 people, the size mismatch is just a scale that’s inconceivable.”
Losing the mill has left Brokaw with a tax rate of $18.23 per thousand dollars in valuation, compared to Wausau’s $8.51 per thousand figure. The cost of Brokaw’s water is higher per person, and perhaps the most glaring figure is the debt per capita. Keene says Wausau’s debt is $1,181 per resident, compared to $18,415 per resident in Brokaw after losing its biggest taxpayer. “To expect the residents of Brokaw to pull together the resources to dig themselves out of that hole on their own is asking a lot. A regional response would be better, and Wausau would be good at leading that regional response.”
Winters says Brokaw has a lot to offer if they joined Wausau, saying they offer an area for business and residential growth. “It would mean as much as an increase of 10% in our (Wausau’s) debt load, and that’s a lot, but Brokaw has an I-39/51 interchange, a bridge over the Wisconsin River, a water tower, a rail junction, and a wastewater treatment facility... and that’s probably 50 million dollars worth of infrastructure that could be used in an expansion of the city.”
Winters says if merged, Brokaw would notice one huge benefit right way with their first tax bill. “Their property tax rates would immediately be the same as ours, which would more than cut their rates in half.”
The alderman for Wausau’s northernmost district says attracting new business to the area and creating jobs would be a lot easier if that kind of space was ready to develop while getting rid of the high taxes that potentially scare away new residents and businesses. That’s why Winters believes many entities should work together if this were to happen. “The county should be involved in a solution, the state should be involved in a solution, Wausau shouldn’t do it alone, we should have partners, but I think Wausau would be a key partner in making this all work again.”
Neither community’s leaders have discussed a merger. Winters says neither Brokaw or Wausau leaders have studied the possibility yet, and it would be up to Brokaw to start that conversation.
Between Brokaw and Wausau lies parts of the Town of Maine and the Town of Texas. Any merger would definitely affect both towns. Maine Town Chairman Tad Schult opposes a merger. Town of Texas Chairman Matthew Bootz is willing to discuss it.
Brokaw Village President Jeffrey Weisenberger is also open to discussing the concept.