Council advances job order for new Marshfield Utilities headquarters
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – A new multi-million dollar facility for Marshfield’s public power and water utility is another step closer to becoming a reality. The city’s Common Council voted 6-3 on Feb. 11 in favor of a job order which gives the project the initial okay to move into the planning and design stages.
Among those voting “no” was Alder Rebecca Spiros. She said the $17.5 million dollar price tag was too high, considering all of the other major spending on the city’s horizon.
“The 2020 budget had to raise taxes to compensate for an accounting error, and even with that budget increase, that was only going to cover about half of the deficit,” she said. “Now, we’re talking about bonding next year for the city pool. There’s talks about the city garage in the works. There’s been talks in the past about police headquarters and revisions needing to be made to the building that was purchased for parking (former Baltus Express Lube). And of course we all know that that’s not a permanent solution to the issues that the police headquarters have, in addition to rumblings of a satellite fire/ambulance site. So for me, it’s about the timing and the pure amount of money that is being requested to be spent. Although I know that this is going to be covered by the rate payers, it’s still a lot of money.”
Alders Adam Fischer and Ken Bargender joined Spiros in voting “no.”
Alderman Tom Witzel said the job order approval merely keeps design work for the project moving forward. Even though full funding still needs to be finalized and authorized, Witzel said the council’s vote simply forwards initial estimates for the demolition, design, and construction of the Marshfield Utilities headquarters at 2000 South Central Avenue.
“I realize that these are not exact numbers, and I think that part of the issue is that in order to get more exact numbers, we have to get the funding approved to then contract to get these firmed up to then take it to the Plan Commission to then get them to sign off on it for us to then authorize the borrowing,” he said. “I’m assuming you don’t have $17.5 million sitting around that you’re going to break ground today, or even this summer; this is just those preliminary steps.
“So, we had great, long discussions two weeks ago at the Council meeting. The question was, ‘What are we actually going to be approving this week? If we approve this job order, are we locked in? Do we have to spend the money?’ And the discussion came back, ‘No, this was the first step. This was the opportunity to get the ball rolling, so-to-speak.’ After all of those plans are firmed up, much like the pool project is right now; we’d get that to the Plan Commission. It comes back here and we have to figure out, ‘Now, how do we pay for it?’ I realize it does seem a little bit scary when we look at an order that simply says $17.5 million, but this is just the first step. This is not authorizing any bonding or any borrowing or anything else. This is just merely the first step to get this thing rolling.”
The city’s water and electric department is proposing a $17.5 million facility on the site of the existing office building. The utility’s architect has identified a need for more than 77,000 square feet of additional space, for a total of 82,600 square feet. The project would start in March of next year, with completion scheduled for July of 2022.