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Alderman asks Milwaukee to foreclose on train station

By Sean Ryan

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman on Monday asked city attorneys to foreclose the state-owned downtown train station to collect $328,000 in late property taxes.

The state of Wisconsin owns the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, but the building is subject to property taxes because it is leased to private companies. The state owes the city and Milwaukee County money from unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009.

Bauman on Monday said the city should foreclose the building to either collect its cash or take over the station. Bauman is a long-time critic of the state’s decision to sign a long-term contract with Milwaukee Intermodal Partners LLC, Los Angeles, to oversee the building’s 2006 renovation and manage the station.

“It clearly is a public facility,” Bauman said. “There is no way we should be paying taxes to each other, from one public entity to another.”

Megan Crump, Milwaukee assistant city attorney, on Monday said she cannot comment on the request to foreclose the building because city attorneys have not yet reviewed the situation. She said state law lets cities foreclose a property if owners are more than one year overdue on their tax payments.

Representatives of Wilton Partners, a Los Angeles-based company that controls Milwaukee Intermodal Partners, did not respond to calls for comment.

Milwaukee Intermodal Partners, through its agreement with the state, renovated the station in 2006 and 2007 and now leases it to Amtrak, Greyhound Lines Inc. and restaurants. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation occupies offices on the building’s upper floors for its State Traffic Operations Center.

The city of Milwaukee in 2005 created a tax-incremental financing district to give $6 million to the renovation project. The tax districts let municipalities borrow money for projects and pay off the debt with the increased property taxes generated by the new development.

Bauman said he does not know if it would cost the city any money to take over and run the station. But he said he does not want to have a private company such as Milwaukee Intermodal Partners running the station.

“I want a properly functioning, properly managed public station,” he said.

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