YORKVILLE — Racine County is preparing to embark on a new digital era in its services to residents.
In his State of the County address on Tuesday to the County Board, County Executive Jonathan Delagrave sent the message to the board that “change is inevitable.”
“We are setting the groundwork today for a tremendous future for our community,” Delagrave said in his address. “I’m proud of the steps we have already taken, and I challenge all of us, myself included, to question our old way of thinking and embrace new ideas, new models, and new heights of imagination.”
The county is planning to improve upon current services using technology.
In speaking to The Journal Times before the address, Delagrave said he wants the county to develop a “road map” to efficiently and accurately identify areas that need technological upgrades and he wants residents to give their take on the subject.
“We want it built from the ground up with a lot of stakeholder and citizen input on what they would like to see,” Delagrave said. “We want to hear from the community on what they would like to see and then develop a road map to accomplish some of these priorities that we’ve learned.”
With new technology comes issues with privacy, which Delagrave said he understands the concerns about personal data.
“As we learn more about digitizing our services and digitizing the county, we’re going to have to make that our highest priority as we walk through this,” Delagrave said. “If things need to be modified a little bit because of (privacy concerns) we’re going to make sure that happens.”
After the address, the County Board approved entering a contract with My Strategy Source LLC, a consulting service, to develop a long-term digital vision for the county. The contract costs about $30,000, however the county has received a $10,000 grant from the Wisconsin Counties Association to help offset the cost.
The county is planning to start to put together the road map this week and roughly 30 to 50 individuals from different backgrounds and demographics are to be interviewed in order to craft a specific survey for residents.
The results of the survey are to be completed before the 2020 budget cycle begins, that way the county can align its priorities for the coming budget based on the responses.
The plan is targeted to coincide with the City of Racine’s move toward becoming a “smart city” and implementing new technology to aid public services.
“Obviously you can’t eat the apple all in one bite, but over time we’ll develop a long-term plan to be able to do some of this stuff,” Delagrave said. “We need to embrace digital counties and artificial intelligence … the technology is already here and we need to embrace this and be able to be a head of the game and maximize our workforce.”
In his address Tuesday night at the County Board chambers at the Ives Grove Office Complex in Yorkville, Delagrave also shared some updates regarding the Uplift 900 program, which aims to put people with barriers to employment to work in the county.
Delagrave said the county has helped more than 140 people receive their GED or high school equivalency diploma and 250 residents have completed fully funded training.
“In addition to that, over 950 residents, many of them unemployed, underemployed, or ex-offenders, received work-readiness support, such as paid work experience, childcare, and transportation,” Delagrave said in his address. “For Racine residents who received short-term training in a skilled trade, they reported earning an average wage of over $17 per hour.”
Delagrave credited county staff for the success Uplift 900 has had and said staff have committed a significant amount of time to making it work.
“We’re starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Delagrave said in remarks to The Journal Times. “We want to continue in the direction that we’re heading. The next phase is the talent recruitment.”
Delagrave said he hopes the program can be a model for other counties and proves that “it’s not only doable, it’s working.”
“We’re able to work with them so that if other barriers arise, we can help them overcome that,” Delagrave said. “It’s really about the daily grind and working hard to making sure we’re doing those things for individuals who have a lot of barriers to employment.”
With the state closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile detention facilities and moving toward a regional approach to juvenile corrections, it is possible Racine County might be selected to house a regional juvenile detention facility.
Delagrave said that his administration plans to submit a proposal within the next few months to the state for such a facility.
“Ultimately, we put ourselves in a really good position to get awarded a grant,” Delagrave said. “This is a critical piece to what I believe is valuable to a resilient or healthy community or county. I think we can integrate a state-of-the-art facility that, not only will provide great care for those kids, but we believe (will keep them from entering) the adult (penal) system.”
Delagrave said in his address the county has a low recidivism rate, around 25%, and with its educational programs and “trauma-informed approach, and integrated mental health services and substance-abuse-treatment programs have led us to be a model for the whole state.”
However, legislation needs to pass at the state level to provide further guidance to what the regional facilities will actually encompass.
“We’re waiting for the state to release the requests for proposal, specifically about the SRCCCY (Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth),” Delagrave said in remarks to The Journal Times. “Once we get that, we’re going to submit our plan. We’ve gone pretty far on our own dime and we’re not willing to go any further on our own dime until the state, through their legislation, submits what the official RFP would look like.”
“We are setting the groundwork today for a tremendous future for our community. I’m proud of the steps we have already taken, and I challenge all of us, myself included, to question our old way of thinking and embrace new ideas, new models, and new heights of imagination.” Jonathan Delagrave, Racine County Executive
RACINE — Large, multicolored, illuminated Chinese lanterns — in the form of creatures and a pagoda — will light up the night at the Racine Zoo during the last quarter of this year.
On Tuesday afternoon at the zoo, Executive Director Beth Heidorn and others announced plans for the Chinese Lantern Festival at the Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St. The event is to run for 80 nights of illumination, spanning Oct. 1-Dec. 31, with 25 different artistic elements.
The lantern creations will start at the zoo’s entrance and be stationed around approximately the south half of the zoo, Heidorn said.
The zoo is working with Zigong Lantern Group of Zigong, China, the world’s largest industry group of its kind, and its overseas component, China Lantern International. Zigong has won numerous awards, Heidorn said.
The largest of the lanterns, which are illuminated from within, will be the Temple of Heaven, at nearly 40 feet. The longest creation, a dragon, will be about 131 feet long, said Justin Corsa, China Lantern International’s North American executive director. It will stand 18 feet tall.
“The lanterns will look like pieces of artwork during the day and will come to life at night for all to see,” zoo officials stated.
To promote the festival, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism awarded the Racine Zoo a $30,280 grant for marketing. The department’s deputy secretary, Anne Sayers, was on hand Tuesday to make that announcement. The money will be used to do digital, print, direct mail, broadcast and outdoor advertising, in both Wisconsin and Illinois, she said.
“This is a way that we’re able to infuse into nonprofit organizations and destinations around the state to help grow local tourism,” Sayers explained.
“We expect up to 100,000 visitors and $3.76 million in visitor spending,” Sayers said.
Meng Liu, China Lantern International’s executive director for China overseas, said the company will make a $600,000 investment to produce the 25 displays. Heidorn said the zoo will provide the operational and marketing support, and the two partners have a revenue-sharing agreement for the money the festival produces.
The zoo will close at its regular time throughout the Lantern Festival, then reopen at night for that separate event with its own admission structure. Admission fees have yet to be determined, Heidorn said.
The partnership to do the festival came about after Lantern Group approached the zoo to be the site of one of its festivals, both parties said. Corsa said China Lantern proposed coming to the Racine Zoo partly because the grounds present a beautiful environment for the cultural art.
Corsa said the process of making Chinese lanterns started about 2,000 years ago, and each artistic structure is still handmade with silk stretched onto and glued to a steel frame. Each piece of art will be assembled to the point of being about halfway complete, and those pieces will be shipped by sea.
A crew of about 30 Chinese workers will come to Racine and being the final assembly at a large production tent on the zoo grounds, a process expected to take about 45 days, Corsa said.
During the exhibit, the zoo will be accepting group tours with discounts.
Also, Heidorn said, “there are a lot of sponsorship and partnership opportunities,” and anyone interested in that should contact the zoo.
RACINE — This weekend, nearly 400 volunteers are to converge at Park High School to provide free health care to community members in need.
Ascension All Saints is scheduled to host its first local Medical Mission at Home event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Park, 1901 12th St.
The event is not a health fair, but more of a free clinic that will provide critical services such as medical evaluations, lab testing, X-rays, dental care and mammograms to community members who are uninsured, underinsured or who have high co-pays they cannot afford.
“This is about access to the community and serving the community,” said Kristin McManmon, president of Ascension All Saints Hospital. “We have to get outside of the four walls of the hospital to be able to provide this service.”
The event is open to anyone who in need of the services provided. Attendees will not be asked to provide insurance information and interpreters will be available. McManmon said Ascension intends to serve everyone who shows up, but at this point, she’s not sure how many to expect.
“I’m hoping we can serve as many as possible, hundreds if not thousands,” she said.
Most of the 380 volunteers ready to serve at the event are local doctors, nurses and social workers.
Although Saturday’s event is the first of its kind in Racine, Ascension has been doing Medical Missions at Home in other communities since 2008.
“Access to affordable care is a challenge for many,” McManmon said.
A wide variety of services will be offered at the event, including urgent dental work like extractions as well as preventative and restorative dental care. If a doctor or dentist at the event writes a prescription for an attendee, that patient can receive a free 30-day supply from a pharmacist on site.
In addition to a large number of nurses and primary-care physicians, also scheduled to be on hand are an orthopedic surgeon, a rheumatologist, a pulmonologist, a podiatrist, a dermatologist who will perform skin exams and an optometrist who will do vision tests and provide reading glasses.
Paul Durbin, an internal medicine doctor at Ascension All Saints Hospital, is one of the event volunteers. He’s been on nine medical mission trips to Guatemala and volunteered at Medical Mission at Home trips in Nashville and even Stevens Point.
“My past experiences doing Guatemala mission trips really gave me a heart for helping those who are in need; those who are poor, those who are vulnerable,” Durbin said.
His goal as a volunteer is to help attendees with whatever concerns or needs they have. He said the patients at the past missions were grateful for the care they were provided.
“They were just very thankful,” Durbin said.
Once patients arrive at Park, signs and volunteers will direct them to the right spot. All Saints will have golf carts on hand to help those who have difficulty walking get from the parking lot to the building.
The doors will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, and upon entry attendees will be asked to register by providing basic information such as their name and birth date.
As with a typical doctor’s visit, patients will go to a nursing area to have vital signs checked and talk about any health concerns. From there, they’ll head to a primary-care physician who can send them on to a specialist or order labs or other tests. Navigators will be on hand to help patients find their way around.
Patients can also stop by a follow-up station at the end of their visit, which is especially important if doctors identify a long-term concern that should be addressed. As Ascension is a not-for-profit organization, it sees patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Durbin said a foot-washing station available on Saturday to those who are interested adds an important spiritual component to the event, especially since Ascension is a Catholic organization.
“It’s really an act of humility on our part,” he said. “We’re serving that person much like Jesus washed the feet of his disciples I think that underscores that we are here to serve others.”