Mount Pleasant asking Racine for Lake Michigan water

Supply would go to land targeted for Foxconn

Terry Gou and Scott Walker hold up a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Mount Pleasant is seeking help from the City of Racine to supply water for a portion of the village that could become the home of Foxconn Technology Group’s planned LCD panel manufacturing campus.

Terry Gou and Scott Walker hold up a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The Racine Waterworks Commission will consider an agreement between the two municipalities tonight that calls for  Racine to prepare a Lake Michigan diversion application to supply Mount Pleasant with water. Keith Haas, Racine Water Utility general manager, said the diversion would be for Mount Pleasant land that is part of the Des Plaines River watershed.

About 2.77 square miles, roughly 1,772 acres, of land east of Interstate 94, south of Highway 11 and north of Highway KR is part of that watershed. Real estate sources have said that land is a potential site for Foxconn’s massive investment while other reports point to potential locations in the Kenosha area. The memorandum of understanding signed by state and company officials calls for Wisconsin to help secure a minimum of 1,000 acres for the project.

Gov. Scott Walker said Monday he expects the company to announce a location once lawmakers pass a bill, likely in mid-September, giving the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. the ability to offer the company up to $3 billion in tax incentives. The agency and company would then have to finish their contract negotiations before an announcement would be made.

“They wanted to have multiple sites. They’ve plotted them all, they’ve visited them, they’ve got them architecturally designed and everything,” Walker said. “The bottom line is the longer they can wait, the more it gives them leverage in terms of price of the land.”

Because the land is in the Des Plaines watershed, it falls outside the Lake Michigan basin. Since Mount Pleasant is partially within the Lake Michigan basin it is considered a straddling community. That means the state Department of Natural Resources would have the final say on whether the diversion is approved, Haas said.

The application is different from Waukesha’s diversion approved last year. In that case, the city was completely outside of the basin but within a straddling county, leaving the final decision to the Great Lakes Compact Council.

Haas said it is difficult to say how long it would take to get approval from the state, but estimated it could be around 12 months depending on the level of review. Mount Pleasant will be paying for the application and related studies using money from a future tax incremental financing district, with costs estimated at $175,000. Racine is also planning to work with Waukesha-based Ruekert & Mielke Inc. for technical support related to the Foxconn development.

Haas said Mount Pleasant has considered seeking to bring water to the portion of the village under consideration for a number of years. He said the village had concluded “no matter who gets Foxconn that they’re going to want to have people develop.”

“Without water and sewer, they can’t really develop,” Haas said.

The special session bill lawmakers are considering for Foxconn includes several provisions that would help get water from the lake to the southwest portion of Mount Pleasant. One of those exempts the Foxconn development from a requirement that diversions go to an area in an approved water supply service area. A portion of the land under consideration is in the planned Racine service area, but the majority is not.

Another provision would allow Mount Pleasant or another municipality chosen by Foxconn to use the design-build system for expanded water and sewer systems, allowing it to avoid typical bidding requirements for public works projects.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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