Stevens Point mayor explains what voters should know before Aug. 9 referendum

Election 2022
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:49 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - With just two weeks before the August 9th Wisconsin Primary Election, Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza is working to clarify the impact of your vote.

“There’s some serious exaggerations or misinformation that have been floating around,” said Mayor Wiza.

Social media and yead signs are examples of what he’s talking about. In yards across Stevens Point you can find signs that say things like, vote no if you don’t like high taxes or vote no if you don’t like potholes. Mayor Wiza said they are scare tactics that don’t explain fully what your vote means.

At the polls on August 9th, voters must decide if any public transportation project greater than one million dollars should have to go through a public referendum for a vote.

The referendum question will read, “Shall the City of Stevens Point adopt the following ordinance: Prior to the start of any physical construction of any municipally financed (in whole or in part) public roadway or transportation project requiring a city capital expenditure of $1,000,000.00 or more, the common council shall submit to the electorate a binding referendum for approval of the project. Failure of the binding referendum shall preclude the city from proceeding with the project. The wording of any referendum shall provide the specific purpose, location, and cost of the project. Nothing in this provision shall be construed to preclude the city from exercising its role in the planning or design of such publicly financed projects.”

“If this referendum passes the city will have to go to a public vote for any transportation project over a million dollars. That will affect our ability to smoothly and efficiently reconstruct roads, put in rail spurs, work with developers on new developments,” said Mayor Wiza.

Mayor Wiza added the city could have a harder time getting developers to work with them on future projects because it will take longer to get a public vote completed before they can officially hire. Mayor Wiza said many aren’t looking at the full picture and are solely focusing on the Business 51 project.

“Just because you vote one way or the other on this particular referendum question does not guarantee one design or another on Business 51,” said Mayor Wiza.

If the referendum passes, it will be at least two years before the council could address whether to keep it in place or overturn it.

The whole reason there’s a referendum is because of the Business 51 road construction project. Earlier this year more than 2,000 people signed a petition to stop the project with a referendum ordinance.

When the city council voted 10-1 against the ordinance, it left the decision up to Stevens Point voters. Mayor Wiza said if the referendum passes, it will impact the Business 51 project, but it won’t decide which plan the city uses.

The project would take the road from four lanes to two, something business owners believe will hurt them.

The owner of Stevens Point Hardee’s Jack Leichtfuss explained his concerns to NewsChannel 7 in February.

“When you go from four lanes to two lanes you are going to reduce traffic. People are going to avoid the highway and when I’m in a high traffic business, I need that traffic,” Leichtfuss said.

Leichtfuss said the project proposal takes away one of his restaurant’s exits. He believes the project should have never come to this point.

Mayor Wiza encourages you to get to the polls and vote. Click here to find more information about voting in the City of Stevens Point. You can also call city hall with further questions.

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