RACINE — While most of the eyes on the Foxconn Technology Group project are on the developments above ground, public officials are also keeping an eye on the area below ground.
As the Village of Mount Pleasant prepares for Foxconn, one of the biggest projects it must complete first is getting the necessary water for that area from the City of Racine.
On Tuesday, the Racine City Council approved sending an amendment to the 2004 Intergovernmental Retail Water Service Agreement between the city and the village to the Finance and Personnel Committee.
The motion passed 9-5 and if it comes before the City Council again and is passed, the amendment would shift the financial obligation in the construction of two water mains in Mount Pleasant from the city to the village.
The funds to pay for the construction plan to come out of the tax incremental district (TID) established for Foxconn.
Despite the city planning to wash its hands, financially, of paying for the construction, several aldermen questioned if the city should even enter in such an agreement.
Alderman John Tate II stated that the city could be financially vulnerable “if things with the TID don’t work the way they’re supposed to.”
Alderman Ray DeHahn, who voted in favor of the amendment, does not feel the same way.
DeHahn said he believes Foxconn won’t break the terms of the agreement signed between them and the state.
“At this point it doesn’t look like (Foxconn) is in a position to pull out (of the agreement), especially since the state gave them all the billions of dollars in tax relief,” DeHahn said.
While some might be worried about the quality of the water coming from Foxconn, DeHahn said he feels good about the agreement.
“We’re going to do the monitoring of what comes out of (the Foxconn facility) and if its not right, our people will shut them down,” Dehahn said. “We’re not going to go out and pollute Lake Michigan, that’s one of the finest resources that we have.”
Alan Marcuvitz, attorney working with the village on Foxconn, said the amendment protects the city from financial liability.
“The amendment to the Retail Water Agreement ensures that 100 percent of the capital costs associated with construction of the water mains for International Drive and Braun Road will be provided directly by the Village of Mount Pleasant through TID No. 5, which includes the Foxconn project area,” Marcuvitz said in a statement. “Similar to the amendment approved in January for earlier water main work, the amendment is designed to protect the Racine Water Utility, City of Racine and other ratepayers from costs related to this project.”
Critical of blight designation
Tate criticized the village for deciding to designate the entire Foxconn area as a “blighted area” which could impact residents that have not sold their property to the village.
“To enter into an agreement with a municipality that chooses to stick their people on the streets as opposed to standing up for them, I think we have two options when we talk about government,” Tate said. “One is to be a shield or a sword and right now Mount Pleasant is serving as a sword for a corporation and I believe as Racine we should serve as a shield protecting people and standing up for folks.”
Even though the city does not represent the village, Tate said the city is connected to the actions of the village through the “inter-municipal agreement, so what they do essentially falls backs on us.”
“And we have to be, in some ways, in agreement with what is done in the village of Mount Pleasant,” Tate said. “And at this point, I cannot stand in good conscience to support any further agreements with Mount Pleasant without some support or clarity that people will be treated fairly in this process.”
Alderman Henry Perez voted alongside Tate and said that when it comes to Foxconn, “we need to look at the bigger picture.
“I think (the village) made a political decision that would benefit the greater economic basis of the county, not necessarily a people decision,” Perez said. “I think (we) have to be conscientious in creating a balance between what we do to people and what we do for the county overall. How do we do that? I really don’t know. It’s a tough situation.”
The city’s Finance and Personnel Committee meets next on Monday at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., Room 307.
“And at this point, I cannot stand in good conscience to support any further agreements with Mount Pleasant without some support or clarity that people will be treated fairly in this process.” Alderman John Tate II