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Downtown Janesville group proposes business improvement district


Property owners in downtown Janesville will get a chance to chew on a proposal for a business improvement district for the first time since 2008.

Downtown Janesville Inc. is unveiling a proposed BID that in its first year would gather special assessments of $100,000 t0 pay for downtown beautification projects, storefront tenant recruitment and snow removal, among other things.

The proposal will hit City Hall in the next few weeks, Downtown Janesville member Dave Marshick confirmed Wednesday.

Downtown Janesville has sought input on the BID and has held informational meetings for downtown property owners over the last several months.

A plan commission hearing on the proposal is slated in early September, and a comment period will roll out through September and into early October before the city council decides on the plan, Marshick said.

The BID would need approval from the council, and a BID board of directors would have to be appointed before it began to collect special assessments.

Marshick said the board would be appointed by City Manager Mark Freitag, but it would operate independently of the city.

First, the BID will have to pass muster with a clear majority of downtown property owners who would be charged annual special assessments.

Under state law, property owners within the proposed BID district boundaries have a 30-day period after an initial city hearing to comment on the proposal.

During that period, if owners whose property assessments represent more than 40 percent of the total BID valuation sign a petition against the BID, the city would not be able to create the district.

The BID proposal does not include an “opt-out” clause. That means if the city approves it, properties within the BID boundaries will be required to pay special assessments.

For smaller properties downtown, the assessment amounts to a few hundred to several hundred dollars tacked onto property owners’ annual tax bills, according to a proposed set of assessments.

Only properties located in the boundaries of the BID would be charged the special assessments. Residential and city-owned properties, plus some tax-exempt properties located within the BID, would be exempt, according to a city map of the district.

In 2008, the last time a group floated a proposal for a downtown BID, a group of more than 100 downtown property owners shot down the plan by circulating a petition against it.

Marshick said the latest BID proposal is different in a few ways.

For one, he said, Downtown Janesville reached out to dozens of property owners, stakeholders and city officials to give owners information on how the BID proposal was shaping up and to get feedback on how to structure it.

Marshick said during planning of the BID proposal, his group sought feedback from owners who had supported and opposed the failed 2008 plan.

“We said, ‘This is for you guys,’” he said. “The plan we started with was nothing like the plan we came out with.”

In recent months, about a dozen downtown stakeholders of various backgrounds helped craft a proposal that broke the downtown into three zones, Marshick said.

The three zones represent the downtown’s geographical inner core along Milwaukee and Main streets, its outer core to the north and south, and its outlying northern and southern edges, according to a map outlining the proposal.

The zone plan establishes sets of assessments that taper off for owners of properties located farther away from the central core along Milwaukee and Main streets. That’s because much of the BID’s focus is on the central parts of downtown.

“The BID zone idea came directly from the stakeholders we worked with,” Marshick said. “We tried to craft a plan that took it into account that not everybody is going to get the same benefits based on where they’re located.”

The proposal, of which The Gazette obtained a copy, shows that the BID is expected to bring in $100,000 in its first year.

That would fuel about $20,000 in snow removal and downtown beautification projects. It also could help owners of vacant storefronts find tenants who fit their needs.

BID funds also would help market downtown events that Marshick’s group hopes will draw thousands of people. Those events could attract revenue to help fuel the BID.

The BID also would pay for a part-time manager who would promote downtown events and work with downtown properties to help them fill vacancies, Marshick said.

He likened the BID manager’s role to that of a shopping mall manager.

He said the BID’s operations and use of funds would be evaluated by the board in an annual budget process.

The economy and the vibe downtown have shifted since 2008—the last time a BID was proposed in Janesville.

Private investors have sunk millions of dollars into downtown properties on the Main Street and Milwaukee Street corridors on the east side of the river.

Meanwhile, the city is launching the first phase of major riverfront improvements through its ARISE plan.

Marshick said that leads him to believe the timing might be better to propose a BID district now than it was in 2008.

“The climate downtown is very different now than it was in 2008,” he said. “There’s just more momentum.”

top story
Rock and Walworth counties aim to boost breastfeeding


Brit Radloff knew she wanted to nurse her child from the moment she learned she was going to be a mother.

But after her now 10-week-old son, Colwyn, was born, she learned that breast-feeding was harder than she thought.

“You don’t think it’s that hard. You think it’s a natural thing,” Radloff said. “But it’s definitely a difficult thing.”

Radloff realized she was not producing enough milk for Colwyn, but that didn’t stop her from trying to give her son the nutrition he needs.

She nurses, uses a breast pump when she can and supplements with formula when needed. Today, Colwyn is a happy, healthy baby with an infectious laugh and a wide grin.

“It definitely was hard realizing I can’t give him what is needed, but I give him what I can give,” Radloff said.

Her experiences are fairly common, and they have prompted Walworth and Rock county officials to take steps to support breastfeeding women and create more safe places for them to nurse.

One such effort is the Walworth County Breastfeeding Coalition, which is run by Walworth County Women, Infants and Children nutrition program staff, public health staff and residents, said Terese Rutkowski, breastfeeding coordinator and director of Women, Infants and Children in Walworth County.

Briana Boviall, a coalition member and nursing mother, helped start the coalition as a way to help other women through the challenges that come with breastfeeding.

Women at work

The coalition’s mission is to provide resources to women who want to—or are—breastfeeding and to make workplaces aware of state law.

State law says a woman may breastfeed her child in any public or private location where she is allowed to be. No person may prohibit a mother from breastfeeding or demand she leave or cover herself or the child.

Many women stop breastfeeding after six months, mostly because that’s when they return to work, said Jennifer Weadge, a public health nurse at the Rock County Public Health Department.

The Walworth County coalition and the Rock County Public Health Department both encourage women to keep breast-feeding after returning to work.

Rock County efforts

Normalizing breastfeeding has been a priority in Rock County for a long time, but especially recently, Weadge said.

“I think that people are just so used to seeing babies fed with formula that they’re not used to seeing breast-feeding, and it can be a problem for some people,” she said. “The more you see it, the more you become normalized to see it.”

One way Rock County can mainstream breastfeeding is by helping child care centers become certified Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Centers, Weadge said.

The health department provides training for child care centers—the first step in the two- or three-month process to become certified, she said. After attending training, child care center employees work with the health department to make sure they offer adequate space and resources for nursing mothers.

The next training session runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

Weadge believes an increase in breast-feeding mothers can improve public health. Breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of obesity and illness, which can lead to a healthier community, she said.

Making the choice

Any milk a mother can provide will help her baby, said Kim Honan, a lactation counselor at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.

Mirsa Sullivan and Jen Draeger, lactation consultants at Mercyhealth Birthing Center in Janesville, agree that the health benefits for mom and baby are extensive.

Babies get protection against asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes and respiratory infections. Mothers can experience weight loss and are less likely to become depressed.

However, the first rule of newborn care is to feed the baby, no matter the method, Honan said.

While it is rare for a woman to not produce milk, the supply and timing of lactation depend on the woman, meaning some mothers might need to supplement with formula. And that’s OK, Honan said.

“As moms, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders,” Honan said. “We carry enough guilt as it is. Sometimes I give them the permission to not be so hard on themselves.”

Honan said her job is not to make women feel like they have to breast-feed. She wants to empower women to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies. If a woman decides to use formula, Honan supports that choice.

Sullivan said she gives mothers a book of local resources so they don’t feel alone after they bring their babies home.

Sullivan and Honan both said they offer help to mothers over the phone if they need it, or mothers can schedule outpatient appointments to discuss breastfeeding issues.

Access to support

Radloff, Boviall and Honan agree that support through the breastfeeding process ensures a healthy experience for mom and baby.

Honan said the people closest to new mothers, including family and friends, are not always the most supportive. That’s why she encourages women to join her New Mommy Meet Up class or join other community groups.

For women who might not have access to lactation specialists, La Leche League in Rock County offers free services, said Melissa Lovell, a La Leche leader.

The league does not provide medical services or equipment, but it has a team of leaders who have been trained to coach women through common difficulties, Lovell said.

“A lot of it is the basic education. They have never been around other women who have breastfed, so they don’t know what to expect,” Lovell said. “We have women who come in just looking for a community of support.”

As a nursing mother, Radloff said the best advice she has to offer is always put the baby’s needs first.

“Decide what’s best for you and your child,” she said. “Nobody else should decide that for you.”

Foxconn considering a second Wisconsin facility — this one in Dane County


Foxconn is looking at investing at a second site in Wisconsin—this one in Dane County, according to interviews with a half dozen knowledgeable sources.

The investment in Dane County could come in a separate business from the massive flat-screen television plant that Foxconn Technology Group has already committed to building in southeastern Wisconsin.

No offers have yet been exchanged with the Taiwanese company and there are no guarantees that any will be. But developments could come in less than two months.

“That’ll probably clear up in the next 45 days,” said one source familiar with the potential project. “It’s good to be in play.”

Lawmakers are already considering an unprecedented package of up to $3 billion in state subsidies and exemptions from environmental rules to bring the flat screen plant and thousands of jobs to either Racine or Kenosha counties. The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy will hold a hearing today on the legislation to approve the state’s agreement in principle with Foxconn on the southeastern Wisconsin factory that could include an investment of up to $10 billion by the company.

Sources said that agreement with Foxconn has given Wisconsin a leg up in competing for other investments from the company, such as the potential one in Dane County.

In a stop in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker alluded to the possibility that Foxconn could make other commitments in the state.

“Once they get interested in an area and region, they compound their interest in other things,” Walker said as he urged lawmakers to approve the legislation. “As we do that, I would imagine they’ll expand their scope of focus here in Wisconsin.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has previously reported on how Foxconn executives have visited Dane County over the past two months, meeting with UW-Madison researchers and with startup companies from the University Research Park.

But they’ve done more, including investigating sites in the Madison area for a possible company location, according to sources familiar with the potential project. Though their outcome is still uncertain, the talks are active and serious, they said.

“It would not be a surprise that they are hoping to do a number of projects,” one source said of Foxconn. “They’re very committed to being in Wisconsin.”

So far, a clear goal has not emerged for the potential site, but sources gave several possibilities, including a research and development site, an operation connected with medical imaging, and a business related to wearable devices that could track a consumer’s vital statistics.

“It’s a moving target,” another source said of the request from Foxconn.

Though significant, the project would not reach the staggering size of the one in Racine or Kenosha and likely would use existing economic development incentives without any legislative changes needed, sources said.

Foxconn executives have made clear in recent weeks that they’re considering multiple U.S. investments that could go into multiple states. Sources said they’re uncertain if other states are competing against Dane County for this latest potential project.


Local • 3a, 8A

Assessors touring locations

Assessors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are visiting Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties at the request of Gov. Scott Walker. They will collect data this week for a report that they will give to the governor, who then could request a disaster declaration, said Laurie Smith-Kuypers, a FEMA public relations officer. “We’re here to validate the data and the damage, and we give it all back to the governor,” Smith-Kuypers said.

state • 2A

Voter vents frustration at Ryan

A frustrated Republican vented his unhappiness at House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday during a meeting at a wire manufacturer Mukwonago. “For eight horrible years I heard we don’t have control of the House, we don’t have control of the Senate, we don’t have the presidency,” said Banker Wire employee Keith Ketzler, 62. “I’ll tell you what, you’re in there now, and all I see is in-fighting. It’s very dysfunctional.”