Enhanced Downtown Facade Improvement Initiative Moves Forward
Sometimes, a good idea can benefit from a little rethinking and fine-tuning – and, in the bargain, bring the promise of exciting benefits to the Wisconsin Rapids area.
This was exactly the case during the Finance & Property Committee meeting this past Tuesday evening. Planning & Economic Development Director Adam Tegen presented details of a revamped Downtown Façade Improvement Program that is now approved and ready to go before the Common Council. Watch the Finance and Property Committee discuss the facade program in this video, here.
The Downtown Façade Improvement Program is designed to stimulate private investment in high-quality building improvements that contribute to the overall strength of our Downtown area as a shopping and dining destination.
Under the original proposal in 2014, the City set aside $10,000 for a pilot program to support the enhancements of facades within the Downtown area. This effort ultimately ran into two limitations: restrictive covenants that capped the City participation in any given project to $1,000, and the lack of a consistent funding stream.
After reviewing the previous program with the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce and other City staff, and identifying best practices from other communities throughout the region, we crafted a Façade Improvement Program proposal that is enhanced in several ways:
- Consistent funding – The yearly allocation of $23,250 will come from the portion of the City room tax that supports economic development. This fund has previously supported such initiatives as last year’s housing study and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative (REGI).
- Increased flexibility – Instead of being restricted by a dollar amount cap, the City will be allowed to invest up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, up to the yearly allocation, or whatever remains in the program at the time of request.
- Lower overhead cost – In contrast to the initial program, this program will focus on fewer, but larger projects. By following this guideline, administration costs will be reduced from approximately 37 percent of the annual budget to just 14 percent.
- Simplified application form – To encourage participation in the program, the application form has been reduced to two pages, which each applicant will supplement with supporting information to clarify the project.
I was pleased by the positive reception the Finance & Property Committee gave to this new proposal, and I am genuinely excited by the opportunities we may have to put an appealing new “face” on our Downtown area. Thanks to all Chamber of Commerce and City staff who worked as a team to make possible this potential boost to our local economy and quality of life.
New Signage to Reduce Truck Traffic Along Baker Street
In an effort to reduce the number of trucks traveling along Baker Street, the Wisconsin Rapids Department of Public Works, in collaboration with the Police Department and elected officials implemented new truck signage along Baker Street, State Highway 54, Spring Street and 1st Street North.
Baker Street is not a truck route, but residents and City officials have reported many trucks using this thoroughfare. The City currently has a truck access route identified along 1st Street North between Jackson and Spring streets for trucks making deliveries to businesses. The updated truck signage is designed to draw attention to the proper routes for truck traffic and clarify any confusion truck drivers may have, by keeping trucks on the state trunk highway and truck access route, instead of wandering onto Baker Street, which is limited to five tons.
This clarification also allows for more consistent enforcement of truck traffic ordinances, when necessary. The proposed signage is expected to be in place by Friday, January 13.
City officials request that residents notify their family and friends of this updated signage and the weight limit restriction on Baker Street. A copy of the City’s Truck Route Ordinance can be found at: http://www.wirapids.org under ordinances.
Learn How We Can Help Drug Endangered Children
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “A drug endangered child is a person, under the age of 18, who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are illegally used, possessed, trafficked, diverted, and/or manufactured and … is at risk of experiencing, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse … medical, educational, emotional, or physical harm … or … is forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs.”
That definition dramatically describes how the upsurge in criminal drug activity puts into harm’s way the most vulnerable members of our community. Now, concerned citizens can take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn how we can protect our youth.
Please consider attending “Drug Endangered Children: Who they are and how we can help them,” Monday, January 23, from 6:00-7:30 p.m., at Woodlands Church, 1000 East Riverview Expressway.
This Wood County Drug Task Force presentation is designed to help parents and guardians, extended family members, and community members gain more knowledge about the plight of drug endangered children; resources that are available to aid these young ones; and what we as individuals and as a community can do to help.
Complimentary dinner will be served beforehand at 5:30 p.m. Children of any age are welcome to participate in supervised activities.
In his role as chair of the Healthy People Wood County Drug Task Force, outgoing Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief Kurt Heuer will be joined by narcotics detective Nate Reblin of the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, and by Wood County Human Services Department personnel Rebecca Porter and Sarah Arendt.
Guest speaker is Cindy Giese, special agent in charge for the Wausau office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation.
This event is made possible by the generous support of Aspirus Riverview Foundation. Registration is required; deadline is Tuesday, January 17. Call Megan Larson at Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8949 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do your part, to become part of the solution!
Thanks for reading,
Mayor Zach Vruwink