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A series of resolutions passed by the Racine Waterworks Commission Tuesday night included the possibility of spending millions to extend water service to Mount Pleasant and expand the Racine Wastewater Utility in anticipation of the growth expected along the Interstate 94 corridor.
The expansion request, however, goes far beyond the proposal by Foxconn Technology Group to build a $10 billion manufacturing campus. It considers the water and wastewater needs for the next 40 years and includes a request for a study to further define those needs. The resolutions also open the door for Yorkville connect to Mount Pleasant, which is served by the Racine Water and Wastewater Utility.
The four resolutions were passed unanimously at the Racine Waterworks Commission on Tuesday, but they will still need final approval from the City Council next week.
The estimated cost of the extension and expansion: $20 to $100 million for the water mains and $60 million for the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade. The costs are a blend of tax incremental financing district, impact fees, front foot charges and water rates. In addition, the Racine Wastewater Utility has been asked to begin facilities planning studying the future growth in the surrounding villages from a sewer use standpoint, which will cost $150,000.
“Without sewer and water capacity afforded to the local communities, growth opportunism will pass us by,” said Keith Haas, general manager for the Water Utility.
Foxconn Project Spurs Request
“The Village is interested in this diversion to prepare this land for future development,” according to a letter written by Timothy Zarzecki, village administrator for Mount Pleasant to the utility. “The Village is prepared to reimburse the commission for all expenses incurred with the preparation and making of this request.”
Zarzecki explained in the letter that a tax incremental financing district would pay for the extension portion of the project and the two entities would need to form an inter-municipal agreement. The Great Lakes Water Diversion request can be granted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Mount Pleasant officials came to Haas five years ago about the diversion and expanding the wastewater facility, but he told them the village would need to pay for a study and the cost of the expansion. Now that a TIF district is being proposed for Foxconn, those dollars could pay for those costs and the village is interested moving forward on the project, Haas said.
But the growth of Racine County along the I-94 corridor includes more than just Mount Pleasant. And Haas is obligated to plan for future growth in the area since Caledonia and Sturtevant also have plans for growth, he said.
“By planning ahead, no one should run out of sewer capacity,” Haas said. “Good planning is good.”
Great Lakes Water Diversion requested
The Village of Mount Pleasant is asking the Racine Water Utility to apply, on its behalf, for a Great Lakes Water Diversion. A water diversion means the requesting municipality can re-route the direction of the rain water coming onto its property, but it needs to promise to return the water to the utility at the same rate and quality it came onto the property.
The letter does not mention Foxconn Technology Group by name or how much water will be diverted. There is also no reference to when the potential expansion could happen. However, the request has been triggered by Foxconn’s plans to build a $10 billion 20 million square-foot manufacturing campus.
Haas estimates the cost of that study will be about $150,000. The study would be needed because right now the utility doesn’t have water going to the TID area because it’s located in the Des Plaines watershed, an area they don’t serve. The utility is also required to do facilities planning every 20 years and the last one was done in 1997.
The Water Utility is limited to 60 million gallons of water per day out of Lake Michigan and it’s currently pumping 20 million gallons. The issue isn’t capacity at the plant as much as it is not being able to get the water to the area.
“We don’t need an upgrade at the water plant, we need an extended distribution system,” Haas said.
Wastewater utility expansion study requested
The surrounding communities — Sturtevant, Mount Pleasant, and Caledonia — have bought capacity in the Wastewater Treatment Plant facility. Because those communities are anticipating growth, they want the utility to update its facility plan.
“If some one runs out, they could lease or purchase capacity from another party of the agreement if any exists. Otherwise, they get a sewer moratorium for their village until more capacity exists,” Haas said.
This has already happened in Mount Pleasant. A real estate development firm showed interest in buying a large piece of land near the corner of North Green Bay Road and Spring Street for a future residential development earlier this year, but the City of Racine currently has a moratorium on it for sewer expansion in Mount Pleasant.
Since Caledonia expanded its sewer service area, they are anticipating needing more capacity at the treatment facility.
Earlier this month, Caledonia village administrator Tom Christensen asked for the Wastewater Utility to update its facilities plan.
“The forecasted flows for the corridor will likely exceed this relatively low threshold in the next few years due to increased development activity,” he wrote. “We understand that this is a somewhat lengthy process that will eventually require us to provide more detailed sewer flow data and forecasts for not only the above-mentioned corridor but also for the other sewer service areas in the Village that have progressed over the last 20 years.”
Once the utility decides to pull the trigger on the expansion and extension projects, they would ask that they are financed and funded by the Clean Water Fund Program and the Safe Drinking Water Fund Program. But the utility is just putting them on notice that the requests may be forthcoming. Haas is also requesting assistance from the State of Wisconsin environmental improvement fund and is hiring Ruekert & Mielke, a consulting firm, to prepare the application agreement.
“Here’s what we’re preparing to do… Mount Pleasant has been looking at doing this TIF for several years,” he said. “We can’t serve that area unless there is a promise made to bring that water back and there are no water mains there now because it’s in the wrong watershed.”
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