At a busy June 26 legislative session, the Eau Claire City Council approved a new transit fare plan for individuals experiencing low income, approved a construction contract for Haymarket Plaza, considered repatriating the Soo Line 2719 steam locomotive, and decided not to fill the City Council President vacancy.
Council won't fill President vacancy
Th Council decided not to fill the vacant City council President position, meaning it will remain open until the April 2019 election. Former Council President Kerry Kincaid resigned on June 12 in the midst of a term that runs to April 2020.
The Council considered using the same process it has in recent years to fill other vacancies by having open applications to be considered for temporary appointment. With two of the current 10 members absent, the motion failed in a 4-4 vote, which would have required six votes to be enacted. As a result, Council Vice President Andrew Werthmann, who was reelected this spring to represent District 5, will continue to preside over meetings until next April. Whoever is elected in the 2019 election will serve that last year of the term., and the office will be up again for a full three-year term in 2020.
On Monday the Council also recognized former City Council members for their service, including Kerry Kincaid, David Klinkhammer, Kathy Mitchell, Tim Tewalt, and Bob Von Haden. Kinkhammer and Von Haden received their plaques in person and thanked the Council and the public for their opportunities to serve.
More information: Werthmann to continue as acting president of Eau Claire City Council (Leader-Telegram), City council rejects proposal to fill president vacancy (WEAU TV 13),
Eau Claire City Council reaches stalemate on president pick (WQOW TV 18)
Haymarket Plaza construction site and renderings
Haymarket Plaza construction bid approved
Construction will get underway soon on Haymarket Plaza, the public area located between Haymarket Landing and the under-construction Pablo Center at the Confluence. The Council awarded a $1.8 million contract to Pember Companies, Inc., of Menomonie, to be completed this fall.
In related news, the pedestrian bridge that will connect the plaza with Phoenix Park is expected to be installed in mid-July, weather permitting.
2719 in Duluth (taken Sep 2017)
Council considers bringing Soo Line 2719 back to Eau Claire
The issue that generated nearly an hour of discussion at the Council's Monday, June 25, public hearing was a proposal by Council Members Dave Stroebel and Jeremy Gragert for the City to consider repurchasing the historic Soo Line 2719 steam engine, now at the Lake Superior Transportation Museum in Duluth.
The engine was donated to the City by the Soo Line in 1959. It was on static display in Carson Park from 1960 to 1996, when a local group purchased and restored the locomotive to running condition. Initially kept at the Union Pacific roundhouse in Altoona and used for passenger excursions, the locomotive moved to Duluth in 2006 after the roundhouse was torn down and local railroads were no longer available for excursion operations. The engine was sidelined after the 2013 excursion season because it cannot be operated until completion of an expensive mandatory boiler inspection. In 2015, the City of Eau Claire exercised its right of first refusal to purchase the locomotive for $1, then sold it to the Duluth museum for $2, but held an option to repurchase it until July 31, 2018, for $4.
Ken Buehler, executive director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, argued that the engine should stay in Duluth, where the museum hopes to raise funds to eventually put it back in operation. Other speakers maintained that the engine belongs in Eau Claire and provides a unique opportunity to showcase a part of the city's history. Strobel, whose resolution was supported by the Chippewa Valley Museum and Visit Eau Claire, said the move gives the city options for controlling the future of the locomotive.
Under the resolution, passed by the Council 7-1 at its Tuesday session, the City will seek a six month extension on its option or, if the museum does not agree to it, will exercise the option and make the $4 purchase. Strobel said supporters want to use the time to bring a plan back to the City Council for the future of the engine.
More information: Historic Steam Train Could Come Chugging Back to Eau Claire (Volume One)
Low income transit fares approved
The Council also approved a proposal to roll back a transit fare increase implemented earlier this year for individuals whose household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. Qualifying riders will be able to purchase single rides for $1.50 instead of $1.75, and monthly passes for $45 instead of $50.
Before passage, an amendment to allow qualifying individuals to self-certify was added to the original proposal. The new fare is effective July 2. In order to receive the reduced fare, eligible riders must submit an Income-Qualifying Fare Verification Form and receive a permit card from the Transit Administrative Office. More information: City Transit Fares Notice.
Recorded video and Agenda Packets
More information: Recorded video of June 25 & 26 City Council meetings (Valley Media Works/Community Television), City Council Agenda Packets: June 25 public hearing, June 26 legislative
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.