(Beaver Dam) Over $70-thousand dollars in pledges for the Watermark in Beaver Dam will likely go uncollected. The $2.1-million-dollar community and senior center opened its doors in January of 2016. Watermark supporters raised $1.14-million dollars through 236 pledges of money and in-kind donations, not counting the donation of the property. According to the latest numbers from the city finance department, requested by outgoing Common Council President Robert Ballweg, just over $1-million dollars has been collected to date. There is an outstanding balance of $137-thousand dollars with money still coming in.
There are donations from five businesses and four individuals that Ballweg says are potentially uncollectable; either nothing has been paid or only a partial payment. The reasons the pledges cannot be collected, he says, range from a donor who is deceased to a business that is no longer in operation to a business that is still open that does not intend to fulfill their pledge.
Taxpayers in Beaver Dam provided $269-thousand dollars for the Watermark after years of political debate. At issue were promises by Watermark supporters that the project would be funded completely by donations. As a result, a steering committee initially had control over project funding without any oversight from the common council. Multiple city officials, led by then-Council President Jon Litscher, heavily scrutinized the project, reminding the group of their pledge that no taxpayer dollars would be spent.
A major issue that arose was the steering committee’s decision to spend $200-thousand dollars on a fundraising consultant, roughly the same amount that taxpayers wound up paying, not counting the current shortfall in pledges. The Watermark vote was eventually approved when elected officials learned it would cost about as much taxpayer money to fix-up the old senior center as it would to supplement the fundraising shortfall for their new facility.