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Brokaw financial woes discussed with Marathon County committee


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Brokaw Village officials and residents met with Marathon County’s Education and Economic Development Committee Tuesday evening, where Brokaw asked the county for help. They are over three million in debt, and they have a Tax Incremental Finance, or TIF District that is in distress due to large utility investments that relied on the mill.

Jim Rosenberg is on the committee, and says the best idea on the table right now is to get a study started so they have good data to plan a better future for Brokaw.  “What we want to do is bring in a consultant. We’re going to talk about this at our June 23rd meeting of the Education and Economic Development Committee of the county about bringing in a consultant that will put together a study that shows what the situation is now, what some options might be going forward to make Brokaw into a more sustainable situation than it is right now.”

Brokaw has a very small population and small number of taxable properties, which means the residents are forced to pay a much higher cost to support their village services that were designed to support residents and the mill. Rosenberg says recruiting a new business or industry to Brokaw is very difficult because of these costs.  “When you have tax rates that aren’t real competitive and water rates that are very high because of the loss of volume that was being sold to Wausau Paper, it creates a scenario in which it’s very difficult to entice anybody to come in and go into business, and so you can’t really grow your way out of it very well.”

The Village of Brokaw has the infrastructure to support a new industry, and Rosenberg says the location has a lot going for it.  “Brokaw is not a place without assets. It’s got an interchange on the highway, which is something that is very valuable. It’s got infrastructure that can support industry and homes, and it’s a pretty location on the river, and so it’s worth talking about what we can do to make that into a sustainable situation going forward.”

Rosenberg admits the Marathon County Board is not always anxious to hire a consultant, but he is hopeful the idea passes the committee and gets board support.  “I’m hopeful that, if that’s the conclusion the committee reaches on the 23rd and we advance that to the board, that there will be support for that.”

Wausau City Council Alderman Keene Winters had previously offered the concept of Wausau annexing Brokaw, but there are two major problems with that. First, Brokaw would have to dissolve as a village because cities cannot annex villages. Second, there would have to be a contiguous strip of land connecting Brokaw and Wausau, which is something the Towns of Wausau, Maine, and Texas would not support.

(Listen to our interview with Jim Rosenberg on our website, here.)