Plan commission to hear proposal to sell Silvermine property

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The group that once owned the Silver Mine Ski Jumping Complex property wants to buy it back for $1.

On Monday, the City of Eau Claire Plan Commission is scheduled to make a recommendation on whether to sell it. The city says it would give the Eau Claire Ski Club a better chance of raising more money to improve the facility on Silvermine Drive in the Town of Union. In a letter to the city dated April 4, the club said it has invested nearly $300,000 to update the complex. It says it wants to improve the complex even more so it can hold international events. The city's Parks and Waterways Commission has recommended that any deal would also prevent the club from selling off the property, and require that it be returned to the city if the club stops ski jumping. Parks and Recreation Director Phil Fieber wants that second condition to account for both the Eau Claire Ski Club, which is made up of adult skiers, and the Flying Eagles Ski Club, which is a youth club.

Plan Commission member Kathy Mitchell says any time the city sells land, the commission would have to declare it as "excess" first. It does not determine who would buy the land or for how much.

In the late 1960's, the club bought the property, which spans more than 81 acres, for about $30,000. Fieber says it also moved the ski jump to Silvermine from Hendrickson Hill, which is behind what is now Sacred Heart Hospital. Then the city bought it for $1, and leased it back to the club for $1 per year. Fieber says in the 1960's and 1970's, the practice of the city taking ownership of a property like Silvermine wasn't uncommon, because the city would pick up the insurance. He says the city is no longer allowed to insure third parties, and considers the complex a tremendous liability for the city. Fieber says the club knows it needs to make improvements, and that it could use the property as collateral for a loan if it buys the land back.

A recommendation from the Plan Commission would then go to the Eau Claire City Council, which would have to approve a potential sale of the property.

Fieber says he would like to take the proposal to the council in August.

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