Monthly Archives: January 2007

Time to Take Wing for Central Wisconsin Airport

Jim RosenbergBy Jim Rosenberg

During the last year, the Central Wisconsin Airport board engaged solid experts to help map out the future of the facility. I’m a member of the board and I’ve flown the equivalent of a half dozen times around the world in the last two years out of CWA, so I’m not exactly a casual observer. With conservative growth projections of three percent annually, it is only a matter of time before we run out of space to accommodate both the air and ground traffic involved. In the years further out, the problem becomes magnified because once you start applying even small percentage increases to a larger base, the sheer numbers create some camel’s back-breaking possibilities.

The airport board rolled out the Central Wisconsin Airport Terminal Area Master Plan last summer and it is supported by Centergy — Central Wisconsin’s economic development alliance representing Marathon, Portage and Wood counties – along with a lot of area businesses and individuals, because it’s solid and important. It involves constructing an entirely new terminal and supporting facilities in the mid-field area, where there is sufficient room to provide for many decades of future growth. In addition to providing adequate space, constructing a modern facility in the mid-field area will also allow for current operations to gone on unimpeded until the new facilities are ready to occupy. Trying to cobble together improvements based on the current terminal would cost more money and produce smaller, less attractive, less state-of-the art and more costly facility before it is done.

-)The preliminary price tag is $58 million. That’s a lot of money, but federal and state funding combined with airport revenue streams are important components. The car parking lot alone at CWA generates more than $1 million a year now. There are also landing fees, space lease payments, passenger facility charges and other dependable sources of funding such as the Airport Improvement Program funds.

Central Wisconsin Airport hasn’t required a dime of local tax levy revenues for many years. Still, that $58 million figure is being waived around by detractors of the plan like a bloody tee shirt and CWA is being thrown in with other potential projects like the need to expand the Marathon County Jail, as if the projects had anything to do with each other. They don’t – and if people need to wait for guarantees to cover every dollar in the plan before committing to the vision, then they will never be satisfied.

Three times in the past six months, measures have been brought up at the Marathon County Board relating to the airport project. None were brought by the CWA board. The resolutions were designed to add process and to give unelected county staff the opportunity to gain more control of the policy implications. When staff was unsuccessful in getting a “second opinion” via a request for proposals from other firms to second-guess the Mead & Hunt plan, an attempt was made to push it back on the CWA board to come up with a lesser alternative than its own recommendation. The Marathon County Board wisely deferred action on that proposal by unanimously voting to pull it from the agenda in January. Marathon County has not even comprehensively evaluated the financial implications of the CWA Terminal Area Master Plan yet. Wouldn’t it make sense to understand what would be involved in implementing the preferred alternative before demanding a “cheaper model”?

The fact is that Marathon and Portage counties would be paying for a minority of this project under even the most pessimistic scenarios and the project could be totally funded by airport revenue streams under the most optimistic possibilities. As the majority owner, Marathon County needs to take the lead on this issue. This project will take time and the time to move forward is now, with this region’s congressman chairing the House Appropriations Committee and our state senator co-chairing the Joint Finance Committee. Those aren’t guarantees of anything except that there will probably never be a better alignment of important political resources to advance a far-reaching plan to reconstruct one of this area’s most critical global gateways for commerce, industry and the people of Central Wisconsin.

The plan can be viewed online at:

There is a link to the PDF document in the lower left corner of the home page. Please encourage your county board representative to look for ways to get this important long-term transportation infrastructure investment accomplished instead of allowing the kind of negative thinking and foot-dragging that will inevitably lead to higher costs — and quite possibly, a lesser outcome. It not only can be done, but it should be.


To My Friend Tom Bergs…

Eds Note: I have received one or two comments that we are a bit long winded here on the Wausaublog. Well, let the wind blow on this one. It is possible that 30 years of cultural heritage will be coming to an end soon, and we still have time to determine what kind of end it will be. With his title, Dino implied that it is an open letter to Tom Bergs, but it is not. It is an open letter to all of us. All of us who have been touched by the great musical heritage that exists in our midst. I hope that all of you who have been touched by that heritage will take the advice that Dino offers here. And I have no idea where the pictures in the article come from, rumor has it there is a mural on the second floor of the pub. All of them are on the Flickr site.

Dino CorvinoBy Dino CorvinoI walked into the Scott Street Steak and Pub nearly a decade ago. Between jobs, called by a friend, in need of something to do, and somewhere to be. I found a home. I found a place that I love more than just about any place in the world. I found a secret treasure that deserves acclaim. I also found Tom, and Tom is worthy of my appreciation.

So, as the rumors swirl that McDevco is coming to take the block, that the deep pockets are conspiring to put up another office building, that Super Bowl weekend will be the last weekend, while all of that is going on, I thought I would sit down and talk about Tom and what he has done.

I start this by saying I think the City of Wausau has shown Tom and the Scott Street Pub a bad deal. They have underappreciated what he has offered to the city because of his gruff personality, because of slights from over zealous rumors from police departments, because Tom did not really want to be an insider. Instead Tom just sort of stood there, with his bar, and delivered day in day out.

When bars like Players on Stewart were literally fighting in the newspaper with the city about noise ordinance issues and the neighbors, Scott Street had live music three nights a week. When Players thumbed their nose at the Codes and the City, Tom sought out relationships with the neighbors to ensure he could provide live music downtown.

When bars like Breakaway Lounge would have stabbings on New Years Eve, of their own staff I might add, Scott Street prided itself on being a safe place. A place where behavior of that sort was completely unacceptable. Where the police were rarely called, and when they were called it was to provide a way for an out of control human to get someplace safe.

When restaurants like that café by Popes hobby land were creating private clubs so people could smoke, Scott Street was honoring the law, and being smoke free.

Mural Section 1When other clubs in town were looking for models to bring in live music, and were getting greater coverage from the Wausau Daily Herald for doing live music, Scott Street has had music on its stage for thirty years, three nights a week. When those bar owners gave up, Tom kept going. When those bar owners sought to bring in Karaoke or djs or cover bands, Tom sought out ways to support live and original music.When places like the Martini Bars in town were passing ownership from one person to the next, one man has owned the pub for thirty years. A father of three. A part of this city for as long as we can recall. And in so many ways, ignored for his great accomplishments.

I was there for many years. Now I look back, and I wonder how many weddings were there? How many wedding receptions? I know 4 couples among my friends that their wedding and or reception was held there. These are couples that are forever tied to this place, their happiest day took place there. They will never forget the moments of great joy on that day. I know most places can say that, but not a lot of bars have hosted weddings. Actual weddings.

One of Wausau’s claims to fame is the Big Bull Falls Blues Fest. This was a festival that was created at one of the Pub’s tables. Tom Schlief, Otis McClennon, and Tony Menzer were sitting around and decided to have a festival. At least that is the legend. Three Wisconsin music icons, created an iconic event at the Pub. This is the longest running blues festival in the Midwest, and the most successful. And it was drawn up right there in the Pub.

Mural SectionThe Great Northern Blues Society is one of Central Wisconsin’s most popular organizations. It was founded again by Otis McClennon and Denny Behn. Its first meetings were right there in the Pub with Otis and Denny and Chris O’Keefe. This is a long running organization that has brought in amazing talent to its Blues Café each March for the past however many years. This is an organization that has provided scholarships to area high school seniors at each of the high schools. It has put out amazing compilations every few years supporting local musicians.

Wisconsin has had an unparalleled reputation for blues music. It is because of the great collection of clubs that have supported these musicians. Emmits, The Stones Thrown, and Luthers. Great clubs. You know what they have in common — they’re gone. Or they have left blues behind a long time ago. Not Scott Street. Even when people were saying that the blues is dead, Tom supported musicians both financially and personally. Working with musicians directly, putting money in their pockets. Providing them with a great stage to do what they do best.

So all you fans of Otis and the Alligators, The Petrified Alien Brain Blues Band, Howard Luedtke and Blue Max, Westside Andy and Mel Ford, Jay Stulf and so many more the Pub was one of the first stages that supported each and every one.

There are pretty much no blues musicians who have not played on that stage. Almost 100% of the bands that played at Big Bull Fall Blues Fest have come to the famous jam sessions that the Pub hosted on that weekend. Epic evenings that went way beyond 2 am, because the music was just that good. That weekend was the Superbowl; everyone from that festival, the bands, the people, the volunteers came to the Pub. And most of them got in, those that did not just lingered on the street, being together. Not wanting the evening to end. What other place downtown does that anymore?

I started this and I stopped it may times, so if it is bad writing I don’t care too much. Its unfocused, and so what. The Pub was unfocused. It was a secret world, and everything that you think happened there — well all of that happened. Each and every thing. I know from my point of view, I saw my role in that place as ensuring you who needed a safe place, had one. If you needed to get fall down drunk, and cry, and yell at strangers — so be it. When those strangers got up to punch you in the face, the Pub stepped in, and reminded said stranger that maybe each of us needs to be an ass from time to time — let’s let this guy have his moment.

When I was in trouble, Tom Bergs gave me money. When I need a lawyer, Tom Bergs called Gene Linehan. When I needed fatherly advice about something I could NEVER talk to my Dad about, Tom helped me. When I needed confidence, Tom told me to do something he knew I would be amazing at.

Mural SectionMy story is not unique. Not in any way. The Pub has been the center of life for hundreds of people. The Pub is Wausau’s greatest nightspot, its greatest place to see live music. More than the Grand Theatre. More than every other music place combined.

I say this simple thing: if Tom were more of an agreeable sort, there would be a street named after him. He supported Otis, and Howard, and Westside. It is sad how the blues community has turned its back on him in his time of his deepest need. Just walking away. Watching our friend drown, surrounded by strangers. Kids he does not know, kids who do not love him.

Tom had live music on his stage for 30 years. 52 weeks a year. Four nights or three nights a week. But lets go with 3. Let’s do the math.

3 Nights X 52 Weeks X 30 Years= 4680 nights of music.

Lets say each night of music cost 300 dollars…

$300 X 4680 nights= $1,404,000

So lets just round that down to $1,000,000

I say to you, who else has put One Million Dollars in the pockets of musicians?

How much revenue has been created by Big Bull Falls over the 15-year history? That is in Wausau directly because of Scott Street supporting Blues Music as intensely as it has. Tony Menzer lived in Madison, Otis in Stevens Point. None of those cities had a place like Scott Street, and that was the center of that scene. That is why it is here.

I say none of this in an attempt to get the city leaders to save the Pub. I say this because I love Tom Bergs. It took years apart to get here. But when you look to celebrate this person or that person, you remember where you went for a drink on Thanksgiving after your family function. Probably the Pub.

So I say to you, when it is all said and done, if it is to go for city progress, and I hope it does so Tom can retire and his children can be taken care of, when that happens: you go hug him, and thank him for what he did.

Tom Bergs made as much of a contribution to Wausau as anyone ever has.

Chris Seehafer asked me what I think should be done, and I thought about it a bit, and I offer this. I do not know. I believe that the situation with McDevco is one that will not change. They will buy this block, and they will do whatever they are going to do. I believe that McDevco acts in the best interests of this city, and I think they have been really sensitive to everyone involved.

So I say this: I would like you to go and Hug Tom. I call for a city wide parade of hugs for a man who has done a ton of good. A city wide embracing of a man who really does not want to be embraced, a man who is miserable and crabby, and torn up with anger. I say this: brave the lions den. Stand in front of a man who has given to you, and hug him. Tell him thank you. Tell him a good pub memory. Offer to babysit his kids, or stay with his elderly father, or offer to do dishes, or sweep the floor, or take him to a movie. I know Tom likes the Dells of the Eau Claire, he likes running water, put him in the car and take him out there. Bring him a picture of the pub from days past.

Make Tom Bergs the center of attention. Walk past the bar, and walk to the back of the room and go talk to Tom. He has been in the back of the room for a long time, and people just ignored him, and it made him mad. It made him lonely.

Bring him a pot roast, or a stew. How about the cookie recipe you have been working on?

Stop seeing him as the Pub. As the building. See him as a man in trouble. A man who has put in the work and should have your respect. See Tom beyond the anger, and gruffness. Go give him a hug. Shake his hand, and tell him thank you. Tell him you met your wife in his bar, and saw your favorite band there. Tell him your best friend and you once kissed the prettiest girls you have ever seen in that bar. Tell him you felt safe in his bar.

I challenge you. I lay it out there for you. Hug him. Or better yet, pay your long forgotten bar tab. I paid mine not too long ago.

I challenge you to be openly, emotionally supportive of a man who might just not want it. I challenge you to show us all that you’re a great city, and you care for those who care for you. I challenge you to see beyond your own needs and wants, and see the man there in trouble. Go help him. And if he tells you to go away, tell him no. Tell him you care, and your going to help him, or at least hug him and tell him how much he matters.

I challenge you City Fathers…I challenge you to recognize the objective reality that Tom Bergs gave to the city of Wausau. I say, name a street after him, or a park. Now is the time to show you are leaders, and that you’re not going to wait till someone is dead and gone to celebrate him. He respected you, and played by your rules. He showed other bar owners how to do it, and tried to help you when he could.

Tom Bergs is a good man. I hope you tell him that he matters.

mural stitch sm

The “Average” Landlord

Eds Note: In any city people living in rental units of one kind or another make up a sizeable proportion of the population. The owners and managers of those units make up another smaller chunk of the city population. But how they work together is vitally important to the health of the city. And, as Dr. Rent points out, many landlords don’t know what they have gotten themselves into…

John H. FischerBy Dr. Rent 

I received a newsgroup article the other day that reminded me that often people don’t know much about landlords. They assume that we don’t work for our money, that money is an un-earned benefit of owning real estate. They assume we take that rent check, pocket it, and spend a lot of time where it is warm and sunny.

I am a full-time landlord. With nearly 200 rental units, I am one of the biggest in the Wausau area. I am NOT the average landlord.

The average landlord in the Wausau area has 16 units or less (one or two 8-plex apartment buildings). Many landlords only own 1 or 2 single family homes, or maybe a duplex or two.

The average landlord invested in real estate as part of a long term retirement plan. They have normal, full time jobs just like everyone else. In part of saving for retirement, they bought some kind of small rental property. Most have no experience or training and at first saw it only as an investment much like stocks or 401(k)’s. The intent: Purchase and have the rents cover the expenses and the mortgage, do work (as needed) in their time off. Understand that they may have negative cash flow for a while (meaning the rents do NOT cover all expenses). However, in 25-30 years, the real estate would be paid off. Then, their retirement income would be the rents less operating expenses. At some point in time, sell the property to turn the nest egg into liquid cash assets.

The landlords you see that do spend a month in Arizona or Mexico are normally the ones who have held the property 30 years and this is their retirement, they are doing things most retirees want to do. However, between 1/3 and 1/2 of that rent they receive still goes to pay operating expenses; they do not get to keep the entire check.

Many new landlords did not realize what they were getting into. They watched the infomercials, they watched the new shows on how to rehab and make money in real estate, and jumped right in…. the next big thing to get rich quick. They did not learn about the importance of tenant underwriting or following local, state and national laws. They are not ignorant, they are not dumb, they are only naïve. The result, too many times, is what was going to be the way to being the next Donald Trump turns into a foreclosure in less than 3 years. Real Estate is not how you get rich quick. Real Estate is how you build wealth over time – not years but DECADES!

Like I said, I am NOT the average landlord. I worked for a large landlord who started out the slow way back in the late 60’s and was able to weather some really bad times. I worked in the industry 13 years absorbing any piece of information I could before I became the one holding the deeds. My mission now: to help those who don’t do this full time, who can’t possibly do the research I have done, to help them realize all of the potential their investment can be while understanding the responsibilities that come with it.

Give your landlord a break, they are normal working people. Sometimes, when they don’t fix something right away, it’s not because they are hording all the cash, it may be possible they just don’t have the money. You may need them to wait a few weeks for the rent, but the bank holding their mortgage is normally not very patient.

This is not an easy investment, and is not for everyone.

Dr. Rent.

What’s In a Name?

Eds Note: I know that most of you Wauvillians have had a chance to read the rant I wrote for the City Pages, but I thought I would post it here for the benefit of our out of town readers. Yes, I am just too lazy to email my Mom. You will notice that you have to click on the “more” tag to read the whole thing, making it easier to skip if you wish. BUT even if you have read the piece in the CP you might want to skip to the end to see the little surprise I got as a result of this piece. It might surprise you as well.

Bill CoadyBy Bill Coady “Why,” an emailer to the Wausaublog wanted to know, “do we have such a tough time coming up with boffo names for the things we build here in Wausau?” The First American Center, Wausau Center Mall, One Wausau Place and now the First Wausau Tower. How many First Center Places can we have? This is indeed a very good question. Not only are the names pretty dull, but they also exhibit quite a bit of over reach, making us look like we have some kind of Napoleon complex. Hmmm…maybe that would be a good name for an office building. We definitely need to do something about our lexogeographical abilities if we are going to continue to fill this city with empty office and retail space. Continue reading

Lag Time

It has been quite a long time coming, but I finally updated the photoblog.  I was always taking pictures, but didn’t have time to size and post them, so they just sat.  I put a bunch up, so many in fact, that if you want to see them all you will have to go back a page when you reach the bottom.

It will only take you a few minutes, so go on over.   Well it will only take a few minutes unless you make some comments.  Go on, you could make some comments. 😉

Friday Dudley: January 26, 2007

Today was a very special day for me, and for the series of pictures that have been posted here. I got together today with Paul Schlindwein and he took me on the tour of the building. I don’t have much in the way of interior shots as it was late in the afternoon when we got together, and the lighting inside is at the moment pretty minimal, at least in photographic terms. But there will be other opportunities, and I look forward to documenting the construction process up until the building opens.

This is from this morning, in the lovely ice fog that greeted us today.

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This the view from the third floor, where it opens on to the atrium at the main entrance to the building.

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This is a view looking east from the observation walkway, which is located under the pyramid of the roof.  If you knew me well, you would know how amazing this shot really is.

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While talking to Paul in the building, he gave me what I consider to be a scoop. I was certainly surprised, but I will report on that in a separate post. Stay tuned. 🙂

In the Dead of Winter

Eds Note: With this post we officially welcome Leah Alters to the Wausaublog. Leah and the organizations she heads are really a pivotal part of the city and what this blog is often about. She is all about downtown and how to make and keep it vital and also all about all those cool things we do around here that makes Wausau such a fun place to be. When people say “what we need is more people on the square, not more statues,” Leah and the organizations she represents are the folks that make that kind of thing happen. So I am very happen she is able to spend some time with us, and look forward to the dialogue that we can have here.

Leah’s PictureBy Leah Alters

River District Main Street Wausau & Wausau Area Events…

Yes, these two organizations are definitely on the same side of the street. For my first contribution I thought it would be best to explain how they work together.

River District Main Street Wausau is one of the orgainzations in 36 communities in Wisconsin who are members of Wisconsin Main Street. The National Trust Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Main Street was started in 1987 here in Wisconsin to help the revitalization of downtowns. A four point approach system was established to help Main Street Communities encourage economic development within the context of historic preservation. These four points are broken down into committees who meet on a monthly basis: Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Restructuring. For example the promotion committee creates advertisements for the River District, you may have seen the new animated ad that was out over the Holiday Season.

Wausau Area Events is a non-profit organization that has 12 events planned for the 2007 season. Everything from The Summer Solstice Celebration Kick-Off to the Holiday Parade. Now youmight be wondering how these two organizations work together. Simple: the River District works with downtown retailers to improve their businesses, with programs such as facade renovations and implementing business plans. Meanwhile, Wausau Area Events plans and facilitates great events that residents and visitors can attend each year. When participants attend events they have an opportunity to rediscover the changes taking place downtown. And after seeing downtown, we hope that attendees will stay in or return to the downtown area after the event.

So now you are thinking… “In the dead of winter what could Wausau Area Events possibly be working on?” Plenty! The winter season is a great time for the Wausau Area Events staff to start gearing up for the 2007 event season. Gearing up for events includes everything from reserving tents, porta-potties and garbage cans, to contacting performers and brainstorming themes. Winter is a great season to start the ground work for our summer events. Where we hope to see all of you!