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WUWM’s Chuck Quirmbach reports on innovation in southeastern Wisconsin.

Racine County Residents Have Fresh Questions About Foxconn

Chuck Quirmbach
Audience hands were often raised at Monday's Foxconn briefing in Mount Pleasant.

People who live near the Foxconn project in Racine County peppered local officials with questions at a meeting Monday night in Mount Pleasant. Part of the focus was Monday's announcement that Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou will reduce his role at the company.

Another topic was a proposed road widening to serve Foxconn. 

As to Gou, he’s been Foxconn's highest-profile executive meeting with President Donald Trump — and earlier this year again promising Trump that Foxconn will build an LCD screen manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant.

Read: Foxconn Says It Will Produce LCD Screens In Mount Pleasant By The End Of 2020

So, when Gou announced Monday to the Reuters News Agency that he's scaling back his day-to-day involvement with the company, Racine County resident Jeff Loken wondered what that means for Foxconn's plans in Wisconsin.

"So, what happens now? Terry Gou isn't going to be in charge. Someone else is, presumably. Is he going to go along with the same thing?  I mean, it seems to me Foxconn's in trouble financially or is at least pulling back. They're laying off people in China," Loken told WUWM.

Loken joined about 25 other people Monday night at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall for a monthly public meeting about Foxconn. The Taiwan-based firm didn't send a representative. That left it to the village's Foxconn Project Director Claude Lois to take most of the questions.

READ: Foxconn Says It'll Soon Be Hiring More Construction Companies

Like responding to whether Gou's curtailed schedule will affect the plans here:

“My initial reaction is no," Lois emphasized, continuing, “Foxconn also put out a press release later that says he's still chairman. Is he stepping away from some of the day-to-day operations? That's what the article says," Lois said.

Lois also replied to several pointed questions about Foxconn's stated plans to eventually hire 13,000 people in Wisconsin:

"So, they're phasing this in over a period of time. Which was always the plan, folks. This is nothing new. There wasn't going to be 13,000 jobs here in 2020. It was never sold that way. It was never presented that way. So, patience, please," Lois urged.

Lois says he will try to get a company official to next month's Foxconn briefing in Mount Pleasant.  

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Leslie Maj stands next to the sign in her Mount Pleasant front yard.

Tuesday night in Kenosha, there may be a vote on another controversial piece of the puzzle. It's a plan to widen Highway KR, just east of the main Foxconn property. Highway KR is the border between Kenosha and Racine Counties.

In the late afternoon the two-lane road gets a fair amount of traffic, and some drivers go over the speed limit of 45 mph.

Some people who live along Highway KR don't like the expansion plan going before the Kenosha and Racine county boards. Leslie Maj's house is on the Mount Pleasant side of the road, in Racine County. She says the problem is the scope of the project.

"Because it's not just four lanes. It's a 22 to 32-foot median. It's huge 8-foot shoulders. They're trying to put a 10-foot bike path on my property and run that along Highway KR. We are also going to be enjoying some utility work coming through here on the Racine County side. A 24-inch gas pipeline will be going through our property," Maj said.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
The proposed Highway KR road widening would pave over this ditch and strip of grass.

She worries the road widening would take most of her front yard.

"It would mean devastation, actually. What that will most likely cause to happen is something called an uneconomic remnant. And what that means is, the remaining property is so devalued, by what is taken, that the county of Racine will be forced to purchase my property in total," Maj predicted.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working with the two counties. DOT Foxconn Project Director Brett Wallace says he's trying to minimize property impact. Wallace also says if the widening occurs, there will be an effort to hold down vehicle speeds.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
The Highway KR widening would take most of Leslie Maj's front yard.

"Certainly, everyone's committed to monitor traffic when the project is built. And to be prepared with some speed mitigation that could be implemented," Wallace told the audience at Mount Pleasant Village Hall.

A statement from Racine County Executive's office says no construction will begin until both the Kenosha and Racine County Boards formally approve the Highway KR plans. The Kenosha County Board is expected to vote Tuesday night. The Racine County Board meets next week.

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