RACINE COUNTY— Racine County officials are on the verge of borrowing millions more for land acquisitions along Highway KR to allow for a widening of the road.

In 2017, Racine County officials were planning to spend $2.5 million, spread over two years, on land acquisitions and utility costs along Highway KR based on comparable sales at the time.

Now the County Board is evaluating a resolution that asks for an additional $4.57 million for the county’s part of the project.

At the County Finance and Human Service Committee meeting on Wednesday, County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said the Highway KR project is “vital” to the health of the county, and with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation funding most of the project, the county is receiving a greater return on its investment.

“It is an increased cost on estimation but still, with the return on investment and the dollars we get back for this project, it’s still a great deal,” Delagrave said. “But, unfortunately, it does cost a little bit more than we thought.”

The committee approved the resolution which now goes to the full County Board for first reading.

Since Foxconn has come to Mount Pleasant to build an advanced manufacturing plant, property values near the site have been increasing. Julie Anderson, director of public works and development services for the county, attributes that to the increase in funding needed to acquire the land for the Highway KR project.

“The reason the costs went up so much has to do almost 100% with the comparable sales in the area,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the county was planning on using $1.25 million, which was included in the 2019 budget, and proposed another $1.25 million for land acquisitions in the 2020 budget.

“Along came the prices and costs and buyouts that occurred in that close vicinity (to the Foxconn) and all bets were off,” Anderson said. “Two properties alone that we’re acquiring are taking up almost our whole allocation for 2019.”

County costs to be over $6 million

If the resolution, which allows for up to $4.57 million to be used for Highway KR, is passed by the County Board, $2.85 million would be used before the end of the year to secure the land needed to keep the construction going.

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“It winds up being a cost to the county of a little over $6 million in total for everything we’re going to acquire for this project,” Anderson said adding that includes utilities and consultant fees. “It’s more than double what we were told in the original estimate.”

The county would then use the remaining $1.72 million from the resolution, along with the $1.25 million they planned to budget for next year to acquire properties along Highway KR in early 2020.

County Board Supervisor John Wisch of Caledonia was critical of consultants who provided the estimate for the county, but Delagrave defended their original estimate.

“Those were the estimated land values before the sale of some of these land acquisitions in Area I (of the Foxconn development),” Delagrave said. “(The estimates) weren’t wrong at the time. Nobody could forecast what these land sales were going to go to in Area I in 2018. They just didn’t know. They weren’t wrong.”

Delagrave said the county is planning to use the same formula as Mount Pleasant to form their offer to property owners.

Mount Pleasant offers property owners within the Foxconn area 140% of the appraised land value plus costs for relocation.

However, Mount Pleasant is basing the land value off of appraisals before Foxconn was announced it was coming to the area and the county is basing their formula after the Foxconn announcement.

If not for Foxconn, Delagrave said, it is unlikely the Highway KR project would get done. However, he added the county was able to negotiate with WisDOT to expand the highway east beyond 90th Street.

“It’s still a good value for us to be able to do this project given the DOT is going to be doing the actual road build at their cost,” Delagrave said.

“It is an increased cost on estimation but still, with the return on investment and the dollars we get back for this project, it’s still a great deal. But, unfortunately, it does cost a little bit more than we thought.” Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave

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