Wausau iron works

Wausau Iron Works site could become city motor pool division

Wausau Iron Works
Historic photo of the old Wausau Iron Works site – which could become home to the city’s motor pool division. (Marathon County Historical Society)

After talking about it for years, city leaders took the first step toward moving the public works department’s motor pool division toward a new building – the old Wausau Iron Works building.

The city’s Capital Improvements and Streets Maintenance Committee voted Thursday to start the facility’s design process.

The city initially wanted to move the Department of Public Works to a new location because the old one is getting cramped and doesn’t include enough space for its needs. Expansion on the Miron Street facility didn’t make sense because even buying land didn’t leave it with enough space. 

The city hired Barrientos to study the facility’s needs. It concluded that the DPW needed 101,000 square feet, and the current site only contained 83,000 square feet. 

After reviewing a number of options, Barrientos owner Norman Barrientos told city leaders last week that the best option of the 11 sites they reviewed was the old Wausau Iron Works site on 10th Avenue. That would mean moving only the motorpool portion, which needs about six acres. DPW can then stay at its current location with more space. 

History before the Wausau Iron Works site

City leaders had once been considering 1300 Cleveland Avenue as a potential site but scratched that site over environmental concerns. 

The Ironworks site would work well because it’s a central site with good access for the heavy trucks that would need to use it, Barrientos says. He told city leaders the move would cost an estimated $24 million. That’s a savings over moving the entire site. 

Council Member Lisa Rasmussen said she didn’t know how the Ironworks site plan would gel with the county’s west side master plan it’s working on. But, she says, the speed at which the county is likely to move would be too slow to wait for something that’s been a need for the city for some time. 

“It could take them 10 years, and we would never get our project done,” Rasmussen says. 

Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee Chair Lou Larson said he added “possible action” on the agenda so the city could start moving forward on the project. 

A suitable and historic site

Larson added that the committee toured the facility awhile back. The city could keep the office for administration for the motor pool division, he says. It would also help preserve a piece of Wausau’s history. 

Wausau Iron Works incorporated in 1908 and built railroad bridges and later snow plows, creating Wausau’s first snow plow 100 years ago in 1923. It closed in 1983.