Governor Walker announces support for Confluence Project

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- It's a project that's received the green light from voters in both the county and the city. Now the governor is coming out sharing his support for the Confluence Project.

Monday Governor Scott Walker appeared at the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Business Luncheon.

During his speech he said he's been following the project and the local referenda over the past few months and fully stands behind the Confluence Project.

The governor says he is waiting for the UW System Board of Regents to vote on the project during their budget process this August.

During his remarks the governor says should the Regents not approve a $25-million pledge toward the community arts center there are other state options available to make sure the project moves forward.

“It would help UW-Eau Claire, it would create a civic destination, it would help the downtown area, it would help the arts and it would be good for development,” Walker explained. “We think the state can play a role in leveraging the other resources from the local and private sector.”

Walker says while an ownership agreement still needs to be worked out, he fully stands behind the State of Wisconsin becoming a partner in the project regardless of if the UW System approves funding the project in its budget.

“From our standpoint if the UW System were to embrace it that's great but it seems more likely that with their multi-year project with their dorms and other projects that they wouldn't be funding the full amount,” Gov. Walker said.

Gov. Walker says other projects on the UW Systems agenda might lead to the decision not to fund the Confluence Project. If that's the case the governor says there are other options on the table.

“We have to look at the non-state grant as an option,” he announced at the Chamber luncheon.

“That was an extremely exciting announcement,” Chamber President Bob McCoy said following the luncheon.

McCoy says the option of a non-state grant has worked to provide state funding to other projects including a convention center in Green Bay. McCoy said the governor suggesting it as an option for the Confluence Project should give developers more peace of mind as the project moves forward.

“It gives everyone a positive feeling that we have some options and we have the support of the administration to go forward with it,” McCoy said.

WEAU 13 News reached out to Gov. Walker's challenger Mary Burke for a comment on the announcement. In a statement Burke says she stands behind the project and believes it will help grow the local economy.

The statement goes on to say, “public-private partnerships are the types of opportunities we should be looking at to strengthen our communities.”

WEAU also reached out to Voters With Facts, the group that's questioned the viability of the Confluence Project. At this time they say they have no comment on the governor's announcement.

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