Joint Finance Committee reinstates $15 million in funding for Confluence Arts Center

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- Eau Claire’s Confluence Project is back on the state budget after state leaders voted to reinstate $15-million for the project.

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 to add funding back into the state budget around 7:30 Wednesday night. The $15-million for the Performing Arts Center would come in the form of state bonding also known as a non-state agency grant. That money will be given to the project from the state and will not have to be repaid.

“It’s a long time coming,” City Council President Kerry Kincaid said.
Since May of 2012-- city, county and university leaders along with stakeholders from the arts community have been working hand in hand to collaborate on a performing arts center. Wednesday one of the final pieces of the funding puzzle came together in the form of a $15-million bond from the state.

“For 15 million in state investment we will have a 450 seat theater, a 1250-1500 seat venue and an experimental stage in it. Along with that we have been able to do something collaborative with the community,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said.

After state funding was removed earlier this month, stakeholders like UW-Eau Claire and the group Community for the Confluence have been looking at alternative options to get funding back on the budget.

“We will take it how the people in Madison feel it should be taken care of. If it’s a grant, it’s a grant. If it’s bonded, it’s bonded. Either way it all shows support for a project this community has been rallying around for some time now,” Ben Richgruber with Community for the Confluence said.

For the project's developers and stakeholders, the funding vote still leaves them with questions. It also reassures them in the state's commitment to the project.

“We still need to understand more about the commitment and the process, but the fact is the $15-million is committed and that's exactly what we needed,” Dan Clumpner with Commonweal Development said.

Developers say they hope to have the building complete by late 2016 or 2017.

There is still a possibility that this could be taken out of the budget again before it is signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on June 1st.

Local lawmakers WEAU 13 News spoke to say they will work across party lines to make sure that funding will remain in the final budget.


EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)--The Wisconsin legislature's Joint Finance Committee has voted to reinstate $15-million in funding for the Confluence Arts Center.

The 12-4 vote happened just after 7:30 Wednesday night.

The funding was originally removed from the state budget on May 7th. Since then, state leaders have been working to get funding put back in the 2015-2017 budget.

Confluence leaders will be gathering tonight to share their reactions to the vote. We'll bring you that tonight on WEAU 13 News at 10.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)--The Wisconsin legislature's Joint Finance Committee will reinstate $15,000,000 in funding for the Confluence Arts Center.

Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob McCoy told WEAU 13 News the committee made the decision on Wednesday afternoon to approve the money in general purpose revenue funding. He said he found out from Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva).

Petryk spoke with WEAU 13 News this afternoon, "It's huge, it's good for the entire Chippewa Valley. It has statewide impact and I'm thrilled for the collaborations that have been built."

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-31 District) also spoke with WEAU 13 News saying, "I am cautiously optimistic that this will stay in the budget but we have to be vigilant to make sure that this project gets through the last month of budget activities."

Supporters of the arts center had been working with lawmakers to find another way to fund the facility after the committee decided to remove the funding from the state budget on May 7. At the Republican Party of Wisconsin 2015 Convention in La Crosse, Governor Scott Walker said the legislature would have to work on putting the funding back into the Confluence Project "if it's going to stand and come back."

We'll have more information on our evening newscasts.

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