Smet Construction Suspect For Contracting Apartments
by J.R. Lynn City-Times Staff
City taxpayers showed up in force Monday, overwhelmingly objecting to a large-scale housing project slated for the empty Cooper Motor building on Division Street, and city officials aren’t happy.
Smet Construction, owned by Neenah contractors Paul Belschner and Dwight Fisk, hopes to build a 100-bed residential unit near the corner of Division Street and Fourth Avenue, with commercial tenants in the west end on the property. But residents say they aren’t convinced, and for various reasons.
“If you have a business that can pull this (project) off financially, why can’t they borrow the $50k to begin with?” Asked Mildred Nebel at Monday’s finance meeting, which was solely meant to hammer out the financial details of the project.
Nebel was referring to the $50k the city agreed to provide for decontamination and cleanup of the Cooper Motor site before rebuilding can begin.
Resident Paul Wachowiak agreed, adding the current negotiations were missing some key pieces any other business would insist on.
“This (agreement) lacks personal guarantees,” Wachowiak said.
“Anytime I deal with an LLC I have to issue a personal guarantee. The LLC can default or disband, and then there’d be no accountability for this project.
Wachowiak added he worried Smet would not complete the commercial building of the mixed-use site, leaving the city with added traffic on an already busy intersection, but have no job creation to show for it.
Mayor Havlerson said no personal guarantee was necessary for this arrangement, as the developer would be required to put $50- $75k of cash or “cash equivalent” into holding to ensure the city would not take a total loss should that happen.
It’s a failsafe that some residents don’t see as safe.
“If this developer is promising an assessed value of $3.25 million, you (the finance committee) are entitled to proof of their financial underwritings,” said Mary Ann Laszewski of Stevens Point.
“Have you checked them out?” She asked the committee, adding the agreement did not offer a very strong commitment from the developer.
“So if they don’t finish (phase 2), we’ll end up with student housing garages facing Division Street.”
Alderwomen Joanne Soumi said she also wanted assurances the developer had financial stability. “Did the city offer the $50k up front to entice the developer?” Asked Suomi. “If we didn’t officer it, would the developer still be interested?”
“They were very clear theyneeded help with demo and cleaning concerns,” Halverson said. “That was brought up by them; they very clearly stated they needed that.”
Residents also questioned the developer’s legal problems.
Accordingto the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access records, Mr. Belschner and his cooperating business partners Dwight Fisk, and Scott and Chad Smet have been named defendants in nearly 30 construction and financial- related lawsuits since 1992.
Belschner claimed his legal problems had been settled, and said “it was mostly due to tenants who stopped paying rent.”
Many questions are left unanswered, and many residents said they’d like more information on the developer before the city agrees to any business arrangement.
“It is interesting how the City of Stevens Point wants to throw my taxpayer money at a guy who foreclosed less than two years ago,” said Stevens Point resident Randy Bradley.
“This is a new company that was just started up less than two weeks ago.”