Taking next steps as Confluence Project moves forward

More than a month has passed since voters in Eau Claire and Eau Claire County decided they want to move the Confluence Project forward. UW-Eau Claire is working on submitting its 2015-17 Capital Budget recommendation. It wants $25 million for the Confluence Project’s arts center which would cover half the cost of building.

Assistant chancellor of facilities at UW-Eau Claire Mike Rindo said if UW Regents recommend the university’s budget recommendation, it would then go to the Dept. of Administration for consideration in the Governor’s Budget. If the governor recommends it, it would go to the Building Commission and ultimately the Joint Finance Committee and the legislature.

Leaders of the project also say they need community members to help them take the next step by writing letters and fundraising.

Executive director of the State Theatre Ben Richgruber has been writing letters to lawmakers and encouraging others to do the same.

“We want people to get involved and write letters as well and let the governor and folks in Madison know this is an important project to us. We won two referendums and that shows support, but they need to hear from everybody as well,” said Richgruber.

According to an email from the Chamber of Commerce, letters would be addressed to Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch and your own local legislators to ask them to support the state’s commitment to the Confluence Project.

“There are a lot of different fundraising efforts going on. The total we need to raise is about $15 million dollars and today we've raised about $5 million so it’s moving along really well,” said Richgruber.

Owner of Revival Records Billy Siegel whose record store was on South Barstow Street closer to Lake Street moved his record shop three blocks down closer to the Confluence Project. He said one of the reasons he moved is because he wanted his store to be closer to all the action.

“I'm surprised, the conversation is pretty frequent in the store here on the Confluence Project because it would be so close to the store,” said Siegel. “I don't have the words for how good it would be for downtown, bringing college kids down to this area and having a venue for larger groups that come through from like Madison, Milwaukee area and coming from the cities. This would be perfect middle ground to stop at. It would bring a ton of business to the downtown area and just to Eau Claire area in general.”

He's been filling in vinyl lovers on what the Confluence is about.

“I've been handing out flyers, just to talk positively about it and just show people the true benefits of what can really happen if it does go through,” said Siegel.

Richgruber said fundraising efforts are ongoing.

He said if you want to donate $10, you can text the word ECARTS to 501501.

“There are other people that are making multiyear pledges, we're taking pledges up to five years so any mount you want to give each year, and then there are corporate donations,” said Richgruber.

The letters will help UW-Eau Claire get its $25 million to help fund the $50 million project.

“Right now we are working with UW-System administration and specifically the Capital Planning and Budget office as well as the Board of Regents on doing our submittals for the 2015-2017 capital budget recommendations the regent will vote on in August,” said Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor of facilities at UW-Eau Claire.

He said voters from April 1st showed that there’s high approval for the project.

“It’s the kind of public and private partnership that’s necessary in order to proceed with the project, so if there were any questions from decision makers in Madison about what the people of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County want, they have an answer,” said Rindo.


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