By Kris Leonhardt
As Stevens Point residents prepared to turn their calendars to July 1917, trouble was brewing.
Paper prices were up and work at the Whiting-Plover paper mills was booming. Business was going well for the paper processors, but with one large obstacle…the roads.
Local access roads had become more and more difficult to traverse and mill operators had struggled long enough. They would request, no demand, improved roads from the plants to the City of Stevens Point.
With no funds allocated for the purpose, the city did not have the means to accommodate the mills; however, they had a plan. They would gift a 700-acre portion of the land on the city’s south side to the Plover Township. Then, they could deal with the mill’s concerns. After all, Plover was the recipient of all of the mills’ tax dollars.
The “boomerang gift,” however, was met with much rebuke. On a Tuesday evening in late June, approximately 60 residents filed into McKinley School. All were residents of the 6th Ward, where 640 acres of the proposed gift land consisted of mostly farmland.
The group argued that the farmlands should never had been attached to the city in the first place. Now they had been paying the high city tax rates for years, while receiving no benefits in exchange.
In addition, 21 families would need to transfer their students to the Whiting School or McDill School, increasing their enrollment and placing further economic strain on the rural schools.
Taxpayers further argued that the valuable water resources in the 6th Ward would later become of great benefit to the city.
Finally, in a motion set forth by Frank King, the two 6th Ward aldermen were instructed to vote against any action to detach a portion of the ward.
Even if the gift had passed through the city council, Plover was yet unwilling to accept the gift of any city land.
The paper mills had offered to advance their 1918 tax dollars to Plover to give them the needed funds to build them a new road, but the town remained reluctant.
In a final ultimatum, the paper mill made plans to create their own town. If Plover refused Stevens Point’s land gift and the obligation to build the road, the mill would secede from their township, taking their tax dollars and Stevens Point strip of land along with it.
After weeks of petitions, stipulations and bargaining, a rare and effective compromise was reached. The access road to the paper mills was rerouted to allow for a shared expense between the City of Stevens Point and the Plover Township. In order to finance the road project, the mill held tight to their promise of advanced tax dollars to provide the needed funding to Plover.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.