Business 51 Improvement Project Continues
By Brandi Makuski
The City of Stevens Point is moving ahead with plans to overhaul Business 51, but city leaders say they aren’t sure how- yet.
City leaders became embroiled in the controversial topic after a series public meetings brought objection from dozens. Even members of the Common Council were unable to agree on the details for the project- and in some cases, the need for it at all.
In April Mayor Andrew Halverson surprised everyone when, in the middle of an update on the progress on the Bus. 51 plans, he announced the city would push the project to the “back burner” and instead focus on a new railroad overpass on Country Club Drive. That project is scheduled to begin sometime in the spring of 2017.
“As part of the city switching gears, the project has taken on a much different schedule,” said Scott Schatschneider, director of public works. Schatschneider said engineering firm AECOM continues to work on the environmental assessment- a document taking nearly 18 months to complete and comprised of potential impacts of the project.
“Right now they’re going through the state historical process, which have guidelines for protecting those historical elements at [the Division Street intersections of] Main and Clark streets,” he said.
Regardless of the continuing work, Schatschneider said no design plans have been made.
“There have been no decisions made on any alternatives; nothing has been decided,” he said.
Schatschneider said he’s heard complaints from residents who assume the project is back on track because his department will be asking to apply for a state grant in January to help fund construction on the overhaul.
“People think if we’re applying to grant dollars we must have selected an alternative. That is not true,” he said, adding the grant process is lengthy and the city would likely have to use the funds within the next 3-5 years, but first the Common Council would need to approve any movement.
Schatschneider said additional public input sessions would be held for residents to voice their concerns in the future.
“We’re kind of starting from zero, but we’re building a consensus on alternatives that are acceptable with all parties involved,” he said. “But the problem hasn’t gone away; it’s still there, folks.”