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Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant selects 21-year Police Department veteran as new chief

MOUNT PLEASANT — After a nationwide search, Mount Pleasant officials ended up staying close to home in selecting the Police Department’s new leader.

The Mount Pleasant Police and Fire Commission on Friday unanimously selected Matt Soens, a 21-year veteran of the village department, as its new chief, the village announced Monday. The chief is hired by the Police and Fire Commission and reports to the village administrator.

Soens has been serving as interim chief since the retirement of Tim Zarzecki, the former chief.

“This was an extremely competitive process with candidates from across the United States,” said Jim Ivanoski, acting chair of the commission. “The village is pleased to appoint Matt Soens as the next chief of police to continue the strong tradition of community policing in the Village of Mount Pleasant.”

Soens said that he excited for his new role in his career.

“There are a lot of things happening in Mount Pleasant,” he said. “I’m definitely looking forward to working with the management team and with people on the village side.”

In September, Zarzecki announced that he was retiring after 30 years with the department and 34 years in law enforcement.

Soens said he went through the same procedure that other candidates for the job did.

“There was a lot of care taken to ensure that I was not privy to any more information than the other candidates received and that I went through the same process as other candidates,” Soens said.

At the beginning of the hiring process, Soens said, he heard there were about 30 candidate for the job. Five candidates made it to the final round for in-person interviews, which were held last Thursday and Friday.

Soens, who has a degree in criminal justice administration, has served the Police Department in the roles of captain, sergeant and patrol officer. Earlier in his career, he worked for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and for the City of Janesville.

The Mount Pleasant Police Department department has a staff of 58 sworn officers, 11 civilian staff members and two active K-9 officers. In 2019, the department had a budget of $7 million, the village reported.

Future plans

Soens said that he hopes to continue the department’s focus on community policing and build more community partnerships.

“I think community partnerships are a huge benefit for not just us, but the community as a whole,” Soens said. “The more trust and legitimacy we can establish as a police department, the better we all are.”

Soens also hopes to remain vigilant in the fight against opioid abuse and to focus on maintaining the physical, emotional and spiritual wellness of officers, as what they see and handle on a daily basis can affect them long term.

“I know people can be concerned about the cost of wellness, and how it takes money and manpower, but we can’t afford not to do it,” Soens said.

With the arrival of Foxconn in the village, Soens said the department has to be willing to adapt and be flexible with the demands the development will have on the area.

“Police Chief Soens will help keep us safe as we grow with Foxconn at our front door,” Village President David DeGroot said.

“There are a lot of things happening in Mount Pleasant. I’m definitely looking forward to working with the management team and with people on the village side.”

Local
Gold Medal Lofts project begins
Golden shovels mark start of Gold Medal Lofts project

RACINE — After two years spent securing financing and approvals, on Monday golden shovels dug in at the site of the Gold Medal Lofts, an $18 million affordable housing project planned for the city’s Uptown area.

Josh Jeffers, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based J. Jeffers and Co., the lead developer on the project at 1701 Packard Ave., said company officials expect to close on financing next week, start reconstruction and plan to start leasing units by the summer and fall of 2020.

“We are all very proud to bring 77 units of high quality, affordable rental housing to Racine’s Uptown neighborhood,” said Jeffers. “We fully intend for the reimagined historic building to stand as a statement of our confidence in the bright future of Racine while also acknowledging the city’s rich commercial and cultural history.”

Ivan Gamboa, chairman of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, announced WHEDA had approved $955,769 over 10 years in tax credits for the project.

“It’s truly only the best of the best projects that receive the tax credit awards, and when we award the credits, we award them to the project that adds the most to the community,” said Gamboa. “Gold Medal Lofts is definitely deserving of the tax credits that will enhance the neighborhood and significantly impact the community.”

The city is providing about $1.54 million in community development block grant loans (1 percent interest over 20 years) and a $300,000 HOME loan; the city Redevelopment Authority approved a request to waive $27,000 in residential equivalent charge fees.

Affordable housing

The mixed-income project is planned to include market-rate units, as well as units for households with an average income of no more than 60%, 50%, and 30% of county median income.

Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District, where the lofts are located, said with the rising economy there’s concern in his district — which is made up of about 50% renters — that the project could, as a source of housing stability, shut out some a the lower end of the market.

“People can easily get displaced when a landlord chooses to sell their home to another homeowner — which is what we want, we want homeowners,” said Tate. “But we also don’t want to see people displaced because of a rising economy. We want to see all boats lifted by that rising tide.”

Tate and Gamboa noted the significance of the 23 three-bedroom units, which will be able to accommodate families.

“That is exactly what this community needs, and I’m so glad to see it happening right in my district right at a time when we’re needing it most in the City of Racine,” said Tate.

J. Jeffers’ partner on the Gold Medal Lofts is Lutheran Social Services. LSS Vice President Dennis Hanson said that once the project is completed, they’ll have a service coordinator on-site to help all residents, low-income or not.

“We’ve certainly been aware of the need for quality affordable rental housing in the Racine market for a number of years,” said Hanson. “We couldn’t be more excited to be part of that solution.”

Reviving a landmark

Mayor Cory Mason said that at the last event announcing the project, Alderman Mary Land of the 11th District told him that she used to work at the Gold Medal Camp Furniture Manufacturing Co.; he added that he looked forward to having the historic building brought back to life.

“This is a place where people came to work. This is a place that help stabilized this neighborhood and the middle class in this area,” said Mason. “Now I’m very excited to say that it’ll see new life as a residential facility.”

Jeffers said the materials selected for the project have been approved by the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office and the name, Gold Medal Lofts, is an homage to the building’s original purpose.

“The reimagined building’s design is very intentional, blending historic and modern elements,” said Jeffers.

After the ceremonial digging in of shovels to mark the start of the project, the crowd was encouraged to walk around the inside of the building.

“This project will bring back to life this beautiful building,” said Mason. “You look at this building and you’re reminded that they just don’t build buildings like this anymore and we should do everything we can to help preserve them.”

Jeffers said people can check updates on their project on their website, www.jjeffers.com/properties-2, and at the company’s Facebook page.

“This is a place where people came to work. This is a place that help stabilized this neighborhood and the middle class in this area. Now I’m very excited to say that it’ll see new life as a residential facility.” Mayor Cory Mason, speaking about the Gold Medal Lofts building in Uptown

Soens


Michael Dwyer 

Boston Celtics' Al Horford (42) defends against Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of Game 4 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)


Local
ChocolateFest
Fireworks will go on at Burlington's ChocolateFest

BURLINGTON — ChocolateFest will end with a bang this year after all.

The fireworks for this year’s festival, which runs May 24-27, were nearly eliminated after the festival lost its longtime corporate sponsor. But through the partnership of Community State Bank and Mangold Insurance, the show will go on, weather permitting.

For many years, the fireworks were sponsored by Runzheimer International, the Waterford-based corporate travel and expense analysis firm. But after the firm merged with Motus, a Boston-based equity firm, the company decided not to donate to the fireworks for ChocolateFest.

Tyson Fettes, Burlington market president for Community State Bank, said he was happy the two businesses were able to get together to save the fireworks.

“ChocolateFest is a really important piece of the community and we knew that if we partnered together we can step up and keep the fireworks going,” Fettes said. “It’s a small piece of what makes chocolate fest so great.”

Jim Mangold, president of Burlington-based Mangold Insurance, said he was sad when he heard the prospect of the fireworks going away.

“I think the fireworks is a big thing for this community,” Mangold said. “Every single year as long as I’ve had kids, we all got together and we all watched the fireworks. It’s a great family event. It’s just a wonderful thing for the community.”

Longtime Burlington residents remember what the festival was like when they were a kid and now want to give that same feeling to their kids.

“I remember going as a kid and riding the rides,” Fettes said. “It’s so cool as I remember last year taking my daughter to ride some of those similar kinds of rides and it just brought back all kinds of crazy memories and how fast time goes.”

Grateful community

Mangold said several members of the community have thanked them for stepping in, but thinks they shouldn’t be the ones getting the praise.

“They really shouldn’t be thanking me, they should be thanking the people who do business with us because that’s how we can afford to do it,” Mangold said.

Although it’s unclear if this partnership will continue to sponsor the fireworks in the coming years, Fettes said he is glad they were able to fund it for this year.

“It was our way to give back,” Fettes said. “It’s a small piece of what makes ChocolateFest so great.”

Neither Fettes nor Mangold would disclose how much was paid to keep the fireworks going.


Pete Wicklund /   

Fettes