SCEDC head has rosy report for board

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The new director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. painted a rosy picture for the County Board at their Apr. 16 meeting.

Dane Checolinski, recently named director of the SCEDC, noted that the three-year-old group has already met some of its five-year goals.

The public/private group created to foster industrial and commercial development in the county has completed 22 projects in its first three years, Checolinski reported, impacting a total of 2,433 jobs – either new jobs created or existing jobs retained.

Another goal of the group Checolinski cited was create better visibility for all of the industrial parks in the county, an effort that is paying off, he told the supervisors.

“There has been tremendous activity in the last month in (contacts about) industrial facilities,” he said, including one manufacturer interested in locating in Plymouth’s industrial park.

One issue the SCEDC needs to address is what Checolinski termed, “the complete lack of warehousing (space) in the county.”

Another is the need for creating a trained workforce to meet industrial demand. “We know there’s a workforce issue and we’ve got to get something happening there,” Checolinski concluded.

The board also heard a report from county Planning and Resources Director Aaron Brault.

“Our department has been through quite a lot these last three years, some of it being controversial,” Brault told the board.

He cited the battle over the boat landing fee adopted by the county two years ago.

Brault noted that county officials had hoped to generate about $30,000 a year from the fees to help pay for boat landing maintenance and other expenses.

The fee has actually exceeded that projection every year since its inception, bring in around $36,000 in 2011 and $39,000 in 2012.

As a result, Brault said, the department has been able to establish new piers at Little Elkhart Lake, the Sheboygan County marsh and at the south ditch in the marsh, as well as pay for maintenance and upkeep at other county-owned boat landings and piers.

Speaking of the marsh, Brault reported that the 2011 drawdown enabled the county to reduce the cost of bog removal from $67,000 in 2010 and $48,000 in 2011 to zero in 2012.

As part of the next marsh management plan, which will be completed later this year, another drawdown will be scheduled for 2017, with future drawdowns every five to six years.

Another success Brault cited was the completion of the Sheboygan River and harbor dredging project, completed last year after decades of discussion, planning, and stops and starts.

“We have one of the deepest harbors on the Great Lakes now,” Brault said, adding that it has sparked renewed and increased interest in the Sheboygan harbor.

The board voted its support for the petition from the towns of Sherman and Holland to the state Public Service Commission for emergency rules relating to wind farms.

The two townships are currently weighing an application for a large wind farm for energy generation along their border.

Supervisor Jacob Van Dixhorn questioned why the county should be involving itself in what he termed an issue between the two towns and the PSC. “If we approve this, are we committing ourselves to something? I have a little problem with that,” he stated.

“The reason I felt it was important for the County Board to weigh in on this is that I thought it would be important if the county could go on record supporting two towns that are important to the county,” Supervisor William Goehring, who is also town chairman in the town of Sherman, explained. “There are a lot of unanswered questions about ultrasound noise and other issues affecting some people.”

“We aren’t liable for anything by supporting this resolution,” Corporation Counsel Carl Buesing assured the supervisors. “This is simply an advisory request to the PSC.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 18-3, with supervisors Vernon Koch and Jim Glavan joining Van Dixhorn in voting against it. Supervisor Jim Baumgart, who had voted against the resolution on the Planning, Resources, Agriculture and Extension Committee, was absent, as were supervisors Michael Ogea and Peter Salm.

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