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View from around the state: Foxconn water deal must advance

The city of Racine saw the largest unemployment decrease in the state over the past year, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The data show that Racine’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.6 percent in July 2017 to 4.9 percent in July 2018.

That is great news for our community. It’s only expected to get better as the Foxconn Technology campus is built, whether Racine residents end up working at Foxconn or at another nearby company created because of Foxconn.

At a ceremony Thursday marking the start of vertical construction on the Foxconn site, Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said the project is “transforming Racine, Racine County and Mount Pleasant.”

“We want to lift up our employers and those people who have been challenged with employment barriers to get them out of poverty and for sustained success,” Delagrave said.

But in order for the project to continue to advance, Racine must join with Mount Pleasant and reach an agreement to allow for the extension of sewer and water.

On Aug. 16, area officials released the details of a $100 million intergovernmental water agreement between Mount Pleasant, the City of Racine and the Racine Water Utility.

In the deal, Racine would receive more money for buses and public safety and a new city-village boundary commission would form.

In anticipation of heavier demand for police, fire and emergency services as the Foxconn TID area develops, Mount Pleasant will allocate $150,000 per year from the TID to Racine’s public safety services. The payments will continue for the life of the TID, which could continue until the fall of 2047 but also could end before that.

Also, with the expected ridership increase from growth in TID 5, next year Mount Pleasant will increase its funding for RYDE, the city’s bus system, by $100,000. Thereafter, for the life of the TID, funding will be based on actual usage by Mount Pleasant riders.

The Mount Pleasant Village Board has unanimously approved the intergovernmental deal. It was sent from there to the Racine City Council.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason said in a statement: “I am encouraged by the additional resources proposed in the agreement. Ultimately the decision will be made by the full City Council.”

The City’s Committee of the Whole met on the proposal in closed session for about 90 minutes on Aug. 21, but no decision was made. Council President Jason Meekma said the committee will hold another closed session on the proposal in September.

The agreement is a big deal; it makes sense that Racine aldermen want to make sure they fully understand the terms. But extending the sewer and water is in the best interests of the city, as well as the community as a whole.

Already, there have been announcements of housing developments underway in the city, as well as announcements of developers buying large chunks of land around the Foxconn area. Racine’s unemployment numbers show the worker-training initiatives are paying off.

There is still so much more our community will gain from the Foxconn development. Racine will play an integral part in that growth by allowing for the sewer and water extension.

— From The Journal Times of Racine

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