City announces last-ditch effort for public input on Bus. 51

By Patrick Lynn

City leaders will hold one final meeting on the Bus. 51 remodel prior to the completion of 30 percent of the design created by AECOM.

Mayor Mike Wiza announced in August that the city would hold another public input meeting on the proposed changes for Church and Division streets, which comprise the city’s portion of Bus. 51.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 6. It will be held in the SPASH auditorium, 1201 North Point Dr., and is expected to last about two hours.

Three specialists from the engineering firm AECOM and representatives from the city will be present to answer questions. Wiza also promised he’d have at least one representative from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation present, as well.

“We’ll have a short presentation of where we are in the design after talking with many of the business owners and residents along that corridor, and then we’ll have some time for questions and answers about where we can and cannot go from here,” Wiza said in a news release.

The Stevens Point City Council last week authorized an additional $16,000 to pay for the time of experts and updated materials for the Oct. 6 meeting.

Wiza said the city would be sending postcard invitations to the meeting to every property address in the city, and he planned to spread the word by radio, television, and other media formats.

In the villages of Whiting and Plover, Bus. 51 is known as Post Rd. and is still owned by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Those municipalities agreed to allow WisDOT to rebuild the road, and only then hand ownership over to the villages.

But in Stevens Point, the reconstruction project has been controversial since it was first introduced more than a decade ago under former Mayor Gary Wescott. Under Wescott’s successor, Mayor Andrew Halverson, the city went public with possible plans to acquire more than 70 properties along Bus. 51 in an effort to widen the roadway. Those plans were later scrapped as an unrealistic financial burden on the city.

Further options for the road created by Stevens Point-based engineering firm AECOM stirred controversy again, with some residents and business owners voicing concerns over plans for a lane reduction, center turn lanes, and the addition of bicycle lanes. The controversy grew to such an extent that local business owners circulated a petition forcing a referendum on the Aug. 9 ballot that many mistook as “the Business 51 referendum.”

The referendum requires future referenda votes for any public construction project in the city exceeding $1 million in capital expenses. The first such set of referenda will be on the November ballot and include two development projects that aren’t yet public. Wiza promised more details on those projects “soon.”