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Wausau Drops Lawsuits Against Village Of Maine

Maine Village President: 'It Was A Waste Of Time, Energy And Taxpayer Dollars'

Wausau Paper mill
The new Village of Maine is absorbing the Village of Brokaw, which was economically devastated by the closure of the Wausau Paper mill. Glen Moberg/WPR

The City of Wausau has dropped two lawsuits challenging the formation and boundaries of the Village of Maine, its neighbor to the north.

In December 2015, Maine residents voted to incorporate in order to absorb the failing paper mill community of Brokaw and better handle its millions of dollars of debt.

The village then reached a cooperative boundary agreement with the Village of Brokaw and the adjacent Town of Texas, which kept Wausau from annexing several parcels of land to its north.

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Wausau joined those property owners in a lawsuit challenging the incorporation. The property owners said they were harmed because the new village lacked the resources to extend water and sewer services to their land.

The lawsuit contended there were open meetings law violations between the leaders of Maine, Brokaw and Texas. Wausau also filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Administration challenging the boundary agreement.

Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Jill Falstad struck down both lawsuits last year, but the Wausau City Council decided to appeal.

In a reversal, the city announced it was dropping all legal action late Thursday.

In the statement, Wausau Mayor Bob Mielke said, “Wausau is hopeful that Maine will be successful in financing and building the infrastructure needed to provide the full range of municipal services to support its residents and support economic development.”

In an interview Tuesday, Mielke said the action was long overdue.

“As I said all along publicly, I never felt comfortable with this lawsuit,” he said. “Economic development, it’s just a good thing all the way around, just for the area and for the region in general when neighbors get along.”

Mielke also said the legal action was bad for the city’s image.

“Although some the reasons were valid, I don’t think we ever had the proper message out from day one,” he said.

Mielke said the lawsuits cost Wausau $205,000. Village of Maine President Betty Hoenisch said that money could have been better spent.

“It’s just unfortunate it happened. It was a waste of time, energy and taxpayer dollars, but we’re moving on in a positive motion,” Hoenisch said.

Hoenisch and Mielke both credited Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and State Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Stettin, with obtaining significant federal and state funding to help the new village.

Baldwin obtained $4 million in grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make improvements to Brokaw’s water system.

Petrowski inserted a measure into the 2017-2019 state budget that provides the Village of Maine with $583,000 annually for five years.

Hoenisch said the funding would help the village extend water and sewer service to the properties that Wausau was trying to annex.

“It’s a great day for the Village of Maine,” she said. “We’re happy to have this behind us. It has been quite burdensome. It’s something that never, ever should have taken place.”

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