By Brandi Makuski
In circles of municipal government, Edgewater Manor meets the very definition of an albatross: it’s been a chronic issue for city leaders who face dwindling resources to combat wear, but simultaneously a growing need for the property and all it offers to low-income seniors.
But even after three solid years of debate over what to do with the property, city leaders have been unable to reach any viable options. The past three years have seen several offers to purchase from privately-owned companies, but those offers were turned down over fears any new owner could change the theme away from a low-income senior housing option.
Area landlords also came forward in protest over the potential sales, arguing it unfairly competed against existing rental property owners. Also, the city has heard countless community members who argue the city owes a debt to longtime residents who helped build the Stevens Point Area. But that argument could be faulty, as many of the building’s residents have publicly stated they moved to Stevens Point specifically to live in Edgewater, having no other options in their respective hometowns.
Residents of the 81-unit building have consistently gathered before city leaders en masse to speak for their adopted homestead along the Wisconsin River. All say they consider Edgewater their home; all claim they have no where else to go and are unable to afford most other market-rate apartment options.
But city leaders worry about sustaining the building. Comptroller-Treasure Corey Ladick has laid out several options to pay for needed building upgrades but all involve borrowing money in an already-tight 2016 budget. Jim Hamilton, who formerly ran the city’s housing authority and turned the downtown Hi-Rise into a fully-occupied complex, said the Edgewater will need at least $5 million for repairs- and it’s unlikely the low rent amounts being collected at Edgewater will pay off that debt anytime soon.
Though a small increase in rent is expected, for $530 a month, residents at Edgewater have their heat, electric, hot water and law care paid for. It’s a bargain in today’s economy no matter how you slice it. The residents there all say it’s a community-oriented building and the tenants help take care of one another.
It’s not something city leaders want to take away, and they also no doubt recall the consistent words of Mayor Mike Wiza: “Do what is best for the most people”.
Most on the city’s Redevelopment Authority- and indeed, the City Council- are stuck somewhere between fiscal responsibility and moral duty. It’s an unfortunate cross to bear, but the uncertain future faced by Edgewater residents over the past three years is a cruel one unnecessarily imposed by elected city leaders.
A decision is long overdue.