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Marshfield Common Council Approves New Public Power and Water Facility

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 -- 10:00 AM

(WDLB) By the narrowest of margins, plans for a new multi-million dollar facility for Marshfield's public power and water utility are moving forward.

The Common Council deadlocked 5-5 and Mayor Bob McManus broke the tie with a "yes" vote, to proceed with plans to build new headquarters for Marshfield Utilities on the site of the existing office building at 2000 South Central Avenue.

With a tax increase this year and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alderman Ed Wagner said the timing of the utility building project is not good.

The Tuesday night vote allows the utility to proceed with borrowing up to 16-point-eight-million dollars for the 50-thousand-plus square-foot facility, which Utility Commission President Mike Eberl said is nearly one-million dollars cheaper than original estimates of 17-and-a-half million.

He also told the Council the utility has been using the same headquarters since 1966, all while the customer base and electric usage have been growing for 55 years.

While the initial borrowing is 16-point-eight million, Alderman Ken Bargender noted that interest costs will take the total investment in the project to more than 21-million dollars over 20 years.  The building project will be paid for through slightly-higher electric bills.

The average residential customer will see an increase of four-dollars a month. But Alderman Rebecca Spiros argued that those same residents will wind up paying more, as businesses pass those increases on to their customers.

Spiros joined Aldermen Wagner, Bargender, Adam Fischer and Peter Hendler in voting against the financing for the proposed project. Aldermen Mike Feirer, Nick Poeschel, Quintin Rosandich, Tom Witzel and Tom Buttke voted "yes".

The higher electric bills won't take effect until some time in 2023 as the new facility goes online. Even with the higher rates figured in, Marshfield Utilities General Manager Nick Kumm said the city's utility charges would still be among the lowest 10-percent in the state.

The city's Utility Commission signed off on the borrowing on Monday.  The project includes a two-story office building attached to a new garage and warehouse facility, plus ample parking for utility employees and customers.

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