Ordinance that could impact Confluence Project headed to referendum

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- When Eau Claire voters go to the polls on April 1st, they will be asked to answer a question that could impact the Confluence Project.

It is a development that happened earlier Tuesday evening at the Eau Claire City Council meeting.

That question is going to ask voters if they want a new city law to be created. It would require a referendum if the city spends more than $1 million dollars to help fund arts-related building projects like the Confluence Project.

After about 1.5 hours of discussion, several amendments and points of clarification, Eau Claire voters will have a direct say on the future of the Confluence Project.

The city council had two options before them on Tuesday. First, they debated whether to pass what is called a charter ordinance. That would create a city law essentially saying anytime you use at least $1 million dollars of taxpayer money to construct an arts building in the city, you have to have a referendum letting citizens vote on it. Council voted it down 6-4.

That takes us to option number two - asking citizens to vote on making the charter ordinance a city law. That passed 9-1 and now sets the stage for a question on the spring ballot and another possible referendum on the Confluence Project.

"I really am looking forward to the voters in Eau Claire rising up and letting us know how they feel about this referendum," said Council Member Catherine Emmanuelle.

She says she was not in favor of having a referendum but saw no other option, saying it would eventually end up on the ballot.

"I think we are a community that is binded together for partnerships and I think we have an opportunity for a renaissance in downtown Eau Claire," she added.

"The law says we have to vote on whether we want to adopt the ordinance or not, I voted for adoption because I feel it was better for the city that the city council adopts this ordinance," said Council Member Dave Duax.

He says he voted to adopt the charter ordinance as law on Tuesday. And even though that did not happen, he believes a referendum is the right way to go at this point.

"The public has the right to be wrong, it's their government and they will tell us what the right way to go is," Duax added.

He says if the ordinance passes this spring a special election would likely need to be held in June or July specifically for the Confluence Project. He says one issue is that could cost upwards of $20,000.

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