After months of silence, Mayor Jim Tipple is speaking out about the Thomas Street road-widening project and clarifying what did and did not go wrong.
Mayor Tipple received two letters, one from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and one from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on August 29th, 2012 detailing the agencies concerns about City of Wausau's alleged failure to obey federal regulations. In specific, the City's failure to appraise 10 homes before buying them, not informing the homeowners of their rights and not offering to pay relocation costs.
During a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Tipple stressed that the City did nothing wrong and that there is a good possibility they can straighten out this whole mess with the DOT and FHWA. The mayor also addressed what he considered to be some of the misinformation circulating about the project.
First, he said the allegations that he and other City staffers withheld information about the purchase of 10 homes along Thomas Street is completely false. Mayor Tipple told the press that all City Council members were told about the City's actions either in person or in the City minutes.
Second, the Mayor said that the project did not loose federal funding only the potential for federal funding. He added that it is a misnomer that the project would have been funded 80%by federal money. The project, if split into two separate projects, could have received a maximum of $2 million in federal money. In it's entirety the project is expected to cost $15 million, all of which will now come from the City budget.
Finally, Mayor Tipple said that all the property owners who sold their homes to the city were treated fairly.
"All sales were initiated by a willing seller. Six pieces of property were vacant. One piece of property was a vacant land. And the City paid relocation costs for two houses," Mayor Tipple said.
He added that all real-estate purchases were paid for 100% by the city using no federal money. For the time being, the City will hold off on buying other properties.
The City plans on meeting with both the DOT and the FHWA before moving forward on the project. Mayor Tipple is confident that the City will be able to work everything out with both agencies.
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