Wednesday, Apr. 1st, 2015

Swift opposition forms against Chippewa Tube Lane project

NO PAIN, NO LANE. The Eau Claire City Council has approved the final funds needed to construct the Chippewa Tube Lane. However, a local citizen action group questions the legality of the decision. Above: A conceptual rendering of the tube lane project by SPF Aquatects .
NO PAIN, NO LANE. The Eau Claire City Council has approved the final funds needed to construct the Chippewa Tube Lane. However, a local citizen action group questions the legality of the decision. Above: A conceptual rendering by SPF Aquatects (take a closer look).

At Tuesday night’s legislative meeting the Eau Claire City Council voted 7 to 3 in favor of the $1.7 million Chippewa Tube Lane project, approving the final $500,000 in funds needed to begin construction. Another $500,000 will come from UW-Eau Claire, and an additional $700,000 will come from a matching grant provided by the Federal Waterways and Buoys Commission.

Supporters hope to immediately open developer bidding so construction on the much-anticipated addition to the Chippewa River can begin as soon as late May.

But local tubers excited by the project might hit a few snags along the way. A citizen group calling itself “Boaters With Facts” is already demanding the city reverse its funding decision.

First proposed more than two years ago, the Chippewa Tube Lane would be a safe, fun, tube-only zone along the east bank of the Chippewa River for its entire course throughout the city. It would also provide the aqua-infrastructure needed to add an adjoining tube lane to the Eau Claire River in the future, stretching all the way back to a new launch point in Altoona’s River Prairie development.

At Monday’s public hearing on the project, supporters said the dedicated tube lane will help turn Eau Claire into a world-class tube town. It will also create a “boat calming effect,” reminding boaters that tubers share our waterways. Councilman Andrew Worthmen believes tube lanes encourage tubers to float in the correct direction.

Construction of the Chippewa Tube Lane will involve the removal of historic lumbering pylons scattered along the Chippewa River’s banks. Once demolition is complete, workers will install signage and a miles-long floating safety rope, clearly marking where boisterous tubing is allowed.

A feasibility study by Minnesota’s TubeWorks includes data on potential usage, saying the tube lane would be well-used, mostly by UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College students, making up 48% of the expected floaters, with visiting tubers at 37%, townies at 11%, and at 4%, ducks.

Potential student use is why UW-Eau Claire is partnering with the city to pay for the tubeway, but some citizens question the public/private alliance. At the public hearing, one opponent told City Council, “UWEC already has its Little Niagara creek right on campus. Why would students walk all the way to the river to use [the new tube lane]?”

Early Wednesday morning, UWEC Chancellor James Schmitz took a break from organizing a University of Wisconsin System-wide bake sale to respond, saying, “Little Niagara is a vastly inadequate waterway. It’s very small, and it’s leaking all over the place. It was never designed to support that much fun and relaxation.”

Mere minutes after Tuesday’s vote, Boaters With Facts released a statement sharply criticizing the Chippewa Tube Lane, calling it a ...

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The Gibson Sessions: One guitar, lots of local musicians

A coalition of local designers and musicians, including Pedals MusicDraft Design HouseRevival Records, and Life Songs Counseling has formed to produce The Gibson Sessions – a CD to support addiction counseling services. The CD is a collection of music by local artists, each tune played with a classic 1930’s Gibson acoustic guitar. All of the proceeds from the CD will be made available to offset the costs of counseling services for those looking for help. “It is our hope that we can open a door to options for counseling in a non-threatening and non-labeling atmosphere,” reads the fundraiser’s Kickstarter page. Eric Thompson of Pedals Music plans for this to be an annual fundraising project, and next year it will feature a Bischoff guitar. “We started working with Kathy at Life Songs Counseling and it was just a perfect fit,” he told us. Check out some tracks.

The album features work by Chippewa Valley artists like Brian Bethke, Jeremy Holt, Todd Barnes, Josh Ingersoll, Trevor Ives, Adele Strei, Todd Barneson, and also Christopher Porterfield of Field Report. There are some cool support rewards available on the Kickstarter page such as copies of album (CD or vinyl), posters, and for higher levels of support an invitation to a private pre-release party on May 14, and a limited edition vinyl press. This is a great opportunity to support an important cause with some awesome local folks. Head on over to the Kickstarter page to learn more. The funding opportunity ends on April 10.

A public release party will be held on May 16.

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Monday, Mar. 30th, 2015

Market & Johnson pledges $250K to Confluence Project

A big check from Market & Johnson – at the Haymarket Landing sit on March 30. Image: Community for the Confluence
A big check from Market & Johnson – at the Haymarket Landing site on March 30. Image: Community for the Confluence

The pot of money pledged to the Confluence Project just grew by a cool quarter million thanks to Market & Johnson. The Eau Claire-based construction company announced March 30 that it will donate $250,000 toward the performing arts center that will be built in downtown Eau Claire as part of the multiuse, multibuilding complex at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers. “Market & Johnson has been a proud and an actively engaged partner in the Confluence Project since the project’s inception,” said Jerry Shea, president of the company. “We consider this contribution to be an investment in our community. The performing arts center will do much toward making Eau Claire a destination place in our region.” Donors have pledged more than $7 million toward the $13.5 million local philanthropy goal for the arts center. In addition, $15 million for the arts center was included in Gov. Scott Walker’s version of the state budget, which awaits legislative approval. The $40 million arts center is slated to open in the fall of 2018. A privately built component of the project, dubbed Haymarket Landing, is already under construction. Market & Johnson is the construction manager for Haymarket Landing.

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UW-Stout grad selected to helm massive US retailer

On March 2, UW-Stout alumna Jill Soltau took over as chief executive officer of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, the nation’s largest fabric and craft suppliers retailer. The Ohio-based company has over 800 stores in 49 states and in 2013 it ranked 195th on the Forbes list of largest privately-held companies.

Jill Soltau
Jill Soltau

With one eye on Jo-Ann’s 70 year legacy and one on its future prospects, Soltau expressed excitement about her upcoming tenure as CEO. “Jo-Ann is an industry leader that has exciting opportunities to achieve even greater long-term potential,” she said in a news release. “I look forward to working with the talented management team and dedicated associates to bolster Jo-Ann’s market position and create further enthusiasm for the Jo-Ann brand.” Soltau graduated from UW-Stout in 1989 with a degree in retailing and a minor in business, and since then has had an impressive and prolific career in business management. Most recently she was the president of Shopko, having joined the company in 2007 as its senior vice president. From 2004-06 she was the vice president and general merchandising manager of Sears Holding, and before that she held various planning, private brand, and merchandising positions with Kohl’s. Soltau’s retail career began with the Carson Pirie Scott division of Saks, where she held a variety of roles in stores and merchandising.

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Sunday, Mar. 29th, 2015
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