You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Local
Racine Unified
New Case pool might serve more than one school

Gordon

RACINE — Racine Unified officials are looking at several options for replacing the pool at Case High School, including a larger facility that could serve other schools once their aging pools become unusable.

In August, just before the start of the girls swimming season, the Case pool was put out of commission. The pool, which dates to the opening of the school in 1966, has thinning aluminum walls and leaks that make it unsafe for swimming.

After backlash from some in the historically successful Case swimming community, the district dedicated $8.2 million for a new facility, but until the architectural firm creates a plan, the actual cost is unknown.

The district put out a request for proposals for a pool project architect, and has narrowed a field of six bidders down to one. Unified administrators plan to propose that firm to the School Board during the board’s next meeting, on March 18.

Planning for the future

During Monday’s School Board work session, Unified Chief Operating Officer Shannon Gordon told board members that the administration has no plans at this time to close any existing pool facilities beyond the one at Case. However, she said, the district will ask the architecture firm to look into the creation of a facility that could serve district students in addition to those at Case, as well as the wider community. The architect also will be tasked with developing a business plan that will detail how operation of the pools will impact the district’s finances in the long-term.

It is just as important for the district to know long-term operating costs of a new pool or aquatic facility, Gordon said, as it is for Unified to know the cost of construction.

The district has operational pools at Park and Horlick high schools as well as at Wadewitz Elementary School. All of them are more than 50 years old.

“Our pools are nearing or (have) exceeded life expectancy,” Gordon said.

The district will get to a point in the future, she said, when it will not be able to make repairs to its pools and will have to decide whether or not to replace them.

“The cost of operating the pools is very significant,” Gordon said.

For example, she noted that keeping the Case pool closed this year has saved the district $250,000 in utility costs.

The existing pools are grandfathered into Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association regulations for competition. But if the pools were modified, they would need to be brought up to current standards, which would be possible to do in the current pool space at Park, but not at Horlick or Case.

“The age of our current pools make replacing and repairing in place difficult,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that the condition with the Case pool is not unique, and the same situation is possible at the district’s other pools.

Wadewitz has a warm water pool for therapeutic purposes, as the school has a high number of special needs students who use it. But competition pools, like the ones at the high schools are “cold water.” The district’s request for proposals includes both a warm and cold water pool.

Board concerns

School Board members Julie McKenna and Jane Barbian on Monday both expressed concern about a plan that would include the high schools sharing a pool facility.

McKenna wondered if sharing would be detrimental to the district’s successful swim programs. And Barbian asked if the cost of busing students to a shared facility, as well as related logistics, would make a shared facility worth the cost.

District Superintendent Eric Gallien reassured the board that no facility decisions have been made. The administration wants to bring as much information to the board as possible when it comes to planning for future pool use, he said. The board will ultimately make the final decision on what kind of facility to construct.


Gordon


Pete Wicklund / GREGORY SHAVER, FOR THE JOURNAL TIMES 

Attendees peruse the selection of bowls ahead of choosing their soup selections during the Empty Bowls 2019 fundraiser on Monday at Festival Hall, 5 Fifth St. The event raises money to feed the homeless in the Racine community. Since the Racine event was created in 1997, more than $250,000 has been raised in support of the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization and the Racine County Food Bank. Local students, artists, and citizens create one-of-a-kind handmade ceramic bowls; local restaurants and organizations prepare soups and breads and local volunteers and VIPs do the serving and cleaning duties. Additional photos from the event can be found on Page A7 and at JournalTimes.com.


Local
Election 2019
City of Racine, Evers look to expand access to voting

RACINE — In the face of a legislative attempt to shorten early voting, the City of Racine and the governor are working to make it easier to vote early.

Mayor Cory Mason — joined by Library Director Jessica MacPhail, City Clerk Tara Coolidge, and Aldermen Mary Land and Mollie Jones, all wearing “I Voted” stickers — announced Monday that the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St., would become the city’s fourth early voting polling place.

“Maybe come here with your kids on a weekend to check out some books and while you’re here have the opportunity to vote and just get that taken care of,” Mason said. “It just creates more opportunities for people to participate ... and maybe, for some people, give them the opportunity to rediscover the library.”

“This sounds like a great thing,” Land, who represents the city’s 11th District, said before the press conference Monday.

Earlier that day, Gov. Tony Evers signed his 14th executive order since taking office Jan. 7. Through it, he is trying to make it easier for people to acquire the IDs they need to be able to register to vote.

He directed the Wisconsin Department of Transportation “to develop and implement a plan for expanding accessibility to DOT facilities,” a press release explained.

Leading up to this

During December’s lame-duck session of the state Legislature, a Republican-backed bill would have limited early voting to two weeks before Election Day across the state, rather than allowing municipalities to decide on their own timetables. But that law, despite being signed by then-Gov. Scott Walker on Dec. 14, was blocked by a federal court in January.

The case has little bearing on Racine, since its early voting process starts 15 days before Election Day. Milwaukee and Madison, on the other hand, have six weeks of early voting.

Turnout in February’s primary election was below 6 percent county-wide.

‘Important to our democracy’

After a trial run of hosting voter registration at the library, Mason said it was an obvious choice to turn the library into an early voting polling site. Early voting will be available at the library between March 18 and March 29. On Monday-Thursday, the hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and on Fridays the hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

“It’s a great combination of two of our pillars of democracy,” Mason said. “Democracy works in part because we have great libraries and access to information that allow people to be educated and know what their government of doing. And if there’s any expression of participation in a democracy, it’s the ability to vote.”

Before adding the library, there were already three early-voting places in the city.

  • City Hall: Weekdays, March 18-29, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tyler Domer Community Center, 2301 12th St.: Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave.: Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“As a dad with three kids, I know how crazy life can get on the day-to-day,” Mason said. “If you make it limited to one day where people can vote, you’re really narrowing who can participate in democracy.”

More registration

Expanding citizens’ access to voting is nothing new at the state level.

Coolidge added that Wisconsin has been continuously working to make it easier for new voters to register.

On MyVote.wi.gov, a state-run website, Coolidge said that there is a listing of the constantly expanding list of forms of identification that can be used at polling places, as well as secondary forms of identification that can be used when registering: including online bank statements and utility bills.

“The state seems to be adding more and more things that you can register to vote with,” Coolidge said. “If you’re using a bank account to register to vote, or even a credit card statement … you can bring that up on your cellphone and show us.”

Mason added: “A democracy works as well as the people who participate in it. And the more we can encourage that, the stronger democracy and the stronger city we will have.”

“A democracy works as well as the people who participate in it. And the more we can encourage that, the stronger democracy and the stronger city we will have.” Mayor Cory Mason

Local
State Budget
Barca: Education and transportation key issues in budget

RACINE — This winter has been rough on local roads and infrastructure, but the fight to find a solution to fix the roads might be even rougher.

As Gov. Tony Evers travels the state to pitch for support for his 2019-21 biennial budget, Republicans have been adamant that several major pieces of his agenda do not have their support.

On Monday, Revenue Secretary Peter Barca, a former Democratic state representative and Assembly minority leader from Kenosha, visited with The Journal Times Editorial Board to elaborate on some provisions in Evers’ proposed budget.

For those who listened to Evers on the campaign trail last year, Barca said, his budget plan is a “mirror” to what he said to voters.

Funding for roads

Funding for roads has been a stop-and-go subject, with legislators agreeing that something should be done but finding few lanes of agreement.

Barca hopes that there can be some bipartisan support on raising the gas tax 8 cents, while also repealing the 15 cent minimum markup tax.

“Every gas station has to mark up their gas over and above their price,” Barca said of the minimum markup tax.

The idea was to assist the smaller gas stations, but Barca said the minimum markup tax “artificially is keeping the price up,” so by getting rid of the 15-cent minimum markup tax and installing the 8-cent increase in the gas tax, drivers should see a net decrease at the pump.

“That would make up for the increase in the gas tax by allowing gas stations to lower (the price) below what even they pay,” Barca said.

In the past, Barca has been in favor of toll roads over a gas-tax increase to augment transportation funding, but he is not sure where Evers stands on tolls.

Barca said if passed, some revenue from the gas tax would also go to paying down some of the transportation debt.

Barca said Evers is also proposing a “slight” increase in license registration fees, particularly on those with hybrid and electric cars because they use the roads but don’t use as much gas.

“Of course, those with electric vehicles would argue they’re doing a service because they’re cutting down on air emissions,” Barca said, but added those drivers “need to pay their fair share.”

School funding

Barca hopes there can also be bipartisan support on the proposed $1.4 billion increase to education funding.

“Whether or not they’ll go as far as the governor wants to go, I don’t know but I would hope that they would consider it, though,” Barca said. “(Republicans) like to talk about the fact that the last they made historical investments (in education), well, this will be even more historic.”

Barca said Evers is proposing raising the state contribution to special education to roughly 40 percent during the first year and 60 percent the second year, for a total of $600 million.

For students and prospective students at state universities, including UW-Parkside, Evers is planning to maintain the tuition freeze for Wisconsin families in the UW System, but also increase funding by $150 million.

Barca said that with the in-state tuition freeze, the largest UW System schools such as Madison and Milwaukee, which draw many students from outside the state, weathered the freeze by being allowed to raise tuition rates for out-of-state students.

However, UW System schools such as Parkside, with many commuter students, received minimal benefits from the tuition freeze, Barca said.

“(Parkside has) done a remarkable job with the little bit of resources that they have had, but this (budget proposal) is especially good for the Racine-Kenosha area,” Barca said.

“(Republicans) like to talk about the fact that the last they made historical investments (in education), well, this will be even more historic.” Peter Barca, state Department of Revenue secretary