By Brandi Makuski
The city could soon acquire another park.
After almost a decade of talks, city officials may finally have struck an agreement with the Stevens Point Area Public School District to acquire the Emerson lot, a square city block bordered by East Ave., and Ellis, Reserve, and Clark streets.
The land was home to Emerson School, the city’s first junior high, which today is remembered by many residents as both an elementary school and subsequent alternative high school before it was demolished in 2002. The vacant lot is still used as a playground and sports area by those who live nearby.
A local neighborhood group, Friends of Emerson Park—of which Stevens Point Council President Meleesa Johnson is a member—has also been planning to improve the space, but Mayor Mike Wiza has said improvements weren’t possible by the group unless the space became city property.
The city council gave Wiza permission in January to enter into official negotiations with the school district. Wiza is currently out of the country with the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partnership, and was not immediately available for comment.
Former Mayor Andrew Halverson also negotiated to acquire the land in 2009 and 2013, but no agreement could be reached with the school district’s former administrators.
According to a memo from the Community Development Department, the district has suggested selling the property “for a cost to assist in recuperating some of the past cost of demolishing the former school building”.
Details on those costs were not immediately released, but would come before the city’s finance committee at some point in the future, the memo said.
Prior to 1981, the city owned the Emerson lot, along with all local public schools and land, until school districts across the state unified and took over control of the properties.
If the park becomes city property again, according to Parks Director Tom Schrader, the city would take on maintenance costs for the land, which includes sidewalks, playground equipment, mowing grass, and snow removal. Schrader did not immediately know what those costs might be.
The Stevens Point Plan Commission will consider the option to acquire the lot during its March 5 meeting at 6 PM inside the Stevens Point Police Department, 933 Michigan Avenue. The public is welcome to attend.