City leaders react to Confluence Project funding changes

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- Questions continue on funding for the Confluence Project. The City of Eau Claire is moving forward after the UW-System Board of Regents goes another route.

Half of the funding for the performing arts center will no longer be requested from the Board of Regents. Instead the money will be sought through a non-state agency grant.

That means while the money will come from the state, the state will not own the building.

There's mixed reaction on the local level when it comes to this change in funding for the project.

In order to be considered for the grant, organizers will have to work quickly to meet a deadline that's less than a month away.

“We would make a commitment but we want to make sure there are certain benchmarks set at the local and private sector level,” Gov. Scott Walker said.

At a stop in Eau Claire Tuesday the governor once again reaffirmed his support for the Confluence Project. Gov. Walker was the one who originally proposed the alternative funding option at a luncheon held in Eau Claire in late June.

“We are still looking at what that really means from a city’s perspective. It's a different way of funding,” City Manager Russ Van Gompel said.

Van Gompel says the new non-state agency grant funding method has raised a lot of important questions. Still he says the decision is not a setback for the project. City council member Dave Duax disagrees.

“At this point I would have to say yes it is a setback because at this point we have a lot of unknowns,” Duax said.

Councilmember Duax says while the funding switch doesn't erase all progress made, he's not sure if the full amount of funding needed for the performing arts center will be approved for the grant.

“Before we had the assurance that there would be a state appropriation of half the cost, now we have the assurance that there is a grant program. We could apply for those grants. But could we see the full $25-million? We don't know,” Duax explained.

Governor Walker did not comment Tuesday on whether the project would get the full $25-million worth of funding through the state from grants. He did say an application needs to be submitted by the middle of September in order for the project to even be considered.

That's something City Council President Kerry Kincaid says she's willing to make happen.

“If that application is due September 12 that's when it will be in and it will be thorough and full of energy and good facts,” Kincaid said.

At this point Kincaid says the City of Eau Claire is working with Senator Terry Moulton's office on what needs to be included in the application for a non-state agency grant.

If the application is not submitted by the September 12th deadline the next time the project could apply for a grant would be in 2016.

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