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City council gives green light to development plan

City council gives green light to development plan City council gives green light to development plan

The city of Medford moved forward with plans for a downtown redevelopment project. Members of the city council voted to support the plan Tuesday night after assurances that before money is spent, the council will have an opportunity to vote on each part.

The assurance came after alderman Mike Bub questioned if approving the concept would tie to the city into all the phases of the project.

“I am trying to understand what I am coming on. Are we approving building a building?” Bub asked.

City coordinator Joe Harris clarified that council members were approving a plan which would allow committee members to go out and do fundraising to support. He said it is hard to go out and ask for money if the city council was going to say no to the project.

Bub sought assurance that the council would have an opportunity to vote on it before any of the projects actually started.

“I love phase one. I have questions about the other parts,” he said.

Bub expressed concern about a planned splash pad feature that is included as a future phase of the project. He said he was fully supportive of the shelter and would vote for that immediately. “I’d vote to do phase one right now,” he said.

Bub wanted more information about the size, maintenance and upkeep costs for a splashpad.

“That is going to have more longterm maintenance than this building,” he said.

Mayor Mike Wellner assured council members that before any money was spent it would come back to the council to approve the specific projects included in the overall plan.

Council members voted unanimously to authorize the planning group to continue to move forward on the project. The city and Medford Area Chamber of Commerce have applied for grants which would cover the costs, but is awaiting word on if they were successful.

In other business, council members:

_ Received the annual report from Medford City Baseball Inc. on the operations of the city baseball diamonds. Tom Mueller noted the group lost a little money in 2021 over previous years but said that is within acceptable levels for the volunteer organization. He reported on upcoming projects such as the planned addition of batting cages which will be located near the tennis courts and a new scoreboard for the Little League field that was made possible through support from Sierra Pacific and which will be installed next spring. He said future goals including bullpens and the addition of a sprinkler system to keep the infields in playable condition. “There is no specific date on those,” Mueller said, noting they were the group’s goals.

“It is looking nicer every year,” Wellner said, expressing appreciation to the group for the work they do. “I know you put a lot of time and effort into that and I thank you.”

Mueller also introduced council members to Butch “BJ” Wiegel who is taking over as the group’s new president.

Wiegel is a native of the Rib Lake area and has lived in Medford for 15 years. He said his children are getting involved with baseball and as a result was getting more involved with the Medford organization.

In related action, council members approved the new five-year contract with Medford City Baseball for the field operations. As part of the new contract, the city reduced the amount of payment given each year to $4,000 in return for taking over cleaning and maintenance of the public restrooms at the baseball field and for the city picking up additional mowing maintenance in the spring and fall.

_ Approved naming Alex Zenner as the new wastewater treatment plant superintendent to replace Ben Brooks who left to head up the Wausau facility last fall. Under terms of the appointment, Zenner will be paid $31.29 per hour beginning now and upon successful performance evaluations will move to $34.76 per hour by January 2023.

_ Adopted the Taylor County Hazard Mitigation Plan. This will aid the city in receiving state and federal disaster aids in the case of a disaster.

_ Approved hiring SEH to do the engineering work on the planned capital upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant for a cost of $179,300. The project will consist of removing old blowers and upgrading to energy efficient blowers and installing fine air diffusers in cells 2 and 3 at the plant. Money for the project is included in the sewer utility’s 2022 budget.

Fire hydrants in the city of Medford are working fine and city leaders want to keep them that way. According to city coordinator Joe Harris, the plastic covers were placed over fire hydrants around the city if Medford this week to protect the metal structures from exposure to road salt. The thin plastic covers can be quickly removed if firefighters need to access the hydrants.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS