City will fund STEM project if specific conditions met
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Common Council voted to support the project to build a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) building and renovate the existing science building at the UW-Marshfield/Wood County (UW-M/WC). The council will commit $1 million to the project in the event that several conditions are met.
The first condition requires that fundraising authority representing the university must meet its full fundraising goal of $6 million no later than September 30, 2016, in order to bind the city to a commitment of $1 million. The total project is estimated to cost $8 million with $1 million being asked of both the city of Marshfield and the Wood County Board of Supervisors.
The second condition states that the city’s commitment of funds is contingent upon the Wood County Board of Supervisors also committing $1 million. Conditions also specify that the architectural integrity of the current buildings on campus must be respected during the construction, and the city of Marshfield will not be responsible for making up any shortfall in funding of the project.
Finally, the council recognizes that should the university not reach its funding goal, the project may still continue with the understanding that the project may be revised based on funds available. Alderman Ed Wagner created the initial conditions under which the city would contribute funds to the STEM project, and the university offered revisions to those conditions at Tuesday’s meeting.
The first condition, requiring the university to raise $6 million prior to a city commitment of funds, received heavy discussion at Tuesday’s meeting because the university wished to amend that condition to require only $3 million be raised before the city would kick in funds.
The university has thus far raised $2.77 million toward the project in the silent phase of its campaign. The public phase of the campaign will kick off this summer. UW-M/WC Assistant Dean Michelle Boernke said the hope in getting the city to commit funds at the halfway point of their fundraising campaign was to avoid an “all or nothing” situation, wherein if the university did not hit its $6 million goal, the city would contribute no funds.
Wagner said that he found the revisions to his initial conditions from the university unacceptable. He said that he sensed the university had concerns regarding whether it could raise the full $6 million and that, that was the reason the university wished to amend his initial condition.
“I am really concerned about shorting this thing to the extent of making a commitment for our million dollars on the basis of you (the university) raising only half the money,” Wagner said. “You convinced me you needed a new building and renovation of the old building. You convinced me, and now you’re coming back and saying, ‘Well, maybe not all that much (is needed),’ and that sort of rubs me the wrong way.”
Some council members bristled at the notion that the university was asking for money and then attempting to revise the conditions under which they would receive city funds.
“I have never been in a position where I could go and ask from people money and then give them the conditions by which I’m willing to accept the money,” said Alderwoman Char Smith. She later added, “I want to make it clear I’m not against the project or the building or the need for it. What I’m against is the approach that’s being taken (by the university).”
“The original standards that (Wagner) set forth were good,” said Alderman Peter Hendler. “You know when you go into a bank, you don’t tell the banker what the conditions are. The banker gives you the conditions.”
Alderman Chris Jockheck said that he sensed animosity towards the University during the council meeting and was frustrated by some of the conditions that were being required of the university by the city.
“This will be a city-owned building. There isn’t a ‘they’ and an ‘us.’ We’re all in this, so either we say that we appreciate education, or we chuck it,” Jockheck said. “We’re nitpicking here.”
UW-M/WC Dean Patricia Stuhr said that some of the potential donors have asked what the city would be willing to commit to the project.
“Our main goal is to have some kind of a commitment from the city and the county for these funds so that, that would help us a great deal in our fundraising efforts,” Stuhr said.
The university made some minor changes to the rest of Wagner’s conditions, which the council approved.