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Dobbs Supports Development Efforts, but would Likely Follow the Current Land Use Plan

Development among one of the key issues facing the Village.

Editor's note: Jim Dobbs and Duane Michalski are vying for a seat on the Caledonia Village Board. The election is slated for April 5. Here are Dobbs' answers to several key questions.

Born and raised in Racine, Jim Dobbs, 53, of 5314 Agatha Turn, attended Washington Park High School and graduated in 1976. He pursued a business degree for three years at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Clair and at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside until 1981 when the Racine County Sheriff’s Department hired him as a deputy.

Six months later he became a law enforcement officer with the Racine Police Department. He rose through ranks without a degree and just retired this year as a lieutenant. Dobbs purchased his first home in Caledonia in 1982 and built a home in Caledonia 17 years ago.

Dobbs does not see himself as a politician. He sees himself more as a manager that can help make things happen.

Why are you running for this position?

As I neared retirement, I was looking for something to keep me occupied. I’ve always been interested in government, but I never had the time to devote to it. I’ve always been in public service and I have learned a lot about how things work. I’m comfortable with working together to solve problems and that’s what I will bring to this position.

How would you characterize the village's financial position? What challenges face the village and how would you address those challenges?

Everyone is feeling the pain at the local level with the loss of shared revenue and we’re just learning how much we will lose. There are several options: cut services, or raise revenue through new development or increasing taxes. Over the last few years, local governments have tightened their belts and we need to decide what services we want cut. This is an unfortunate thing, but I will work with the board and listen to ideas.

With that said, our society has gone more towards sharing services through consolidations. I would look at look at working with the fire and police departments to see where we might consolidate services with our neighbors. We have to look at helping each other. We’re all in this together and we need to work together. We cannot continue on the path we are headed. I would also work with department of public works as well. I’m not privy to all of the inner workings, but I ask a lot of questions. Consolidating some services may not work, but we at least have to look at it.

What is your position on development?

Future growth, or smart growth, is one of the most important things for us to look at right now. We need to continuously develop ideas on where we want to go, but we also have a land use plan. It’s a good solid document that outlines where we should go for development and we need to follow that plan.

Our prime business areas, as outlined in the land use plan, are I-94, Hwy K and Douglas Avenue. For the I-94 corridor we need to bring in long-term businesses that can bring in higher taxes. We need to focus on the best possibilities, but we’re not ready to do that without sewer and water. Right now what we’re getting in are little businesses who don’t employ a lot of people and there’s just not a lot of tax revenue there. We need to decide as a community what to do about that because if you don’t have sewer and water, that’s what you get.

Sewer and water would likely be a key element in how the Village might grow. Would you support sewer and water expansion in the village? How would you pay for it?

We have to have sewer and water. And with the work that is going on with I-94, we could parlay that work with our work since they (the DOT) are digging up the road anyway. We could also start the bid process for construction companies to do the work and because of the economy you are seeing companies taking lower bids and the cost of borrowing is low. That’s a perfect opportunity. We need to get leaders together, figure out how to do it, and talk about it.

Several years ago, Mt. Pleasant extended sewer pipes down Highway 20.  At that time, Caledonia negotiated a deal with them to oversize the pipe to accommodate a future hookup along I-94 in Caledonia.  We agreed to pay $5 million for this when we decide to hookup.  Interest is currently being added onto this $5 million dollar figure.  The longer we wait to hook up, the higher this figure will be.  We need to decide when (or if) we are going to do this.

With regards to tax incremental finance districts, it’s my understanding that the taxes generated would go towards paying for the development. That’s a gamble, but in order to create jobs in this economy right now you need to roll the dice. Sometimes you have to invest to make money…. But we also need to project how much better off if we would be with the taxes to make that decision.

Curious to find out how Duane Michalski answered these questions, .

Heather in Caledonia March 22, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Thanks for interviewing him. I'm not sure who I'm voting for yet, so these article should help with that decision.
Greta Mueller March 23, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Edward - you may not be aware of the background of our TID in Caledonia. Dobbs is probably aware of the investment it will take to get it up and running. $50-60 million for sewer and water for the entire TID, based on conversations I've had, I'm not sure his opponent does. The TID is set up as a pay as you go, so certainly we can take it in sections, but without sufficient increment in a fairly short period of time , obviously you understand citizens will be left holding the rather sizable tab, thus the gamble...for taxpayers. Given the extent of the investment required, I'd much rather have someone err on the side of caution, yet Dobbs seems more than willing to give this a chance. Since many of the TIDS in the city of Racine are failing, could also be Dobbs wants to make sure we don't make the same mistakes - I have complete respect for that. When dealing with tens of millions of dollars in debt, I don't want a loose canon.
Denise Lockwood March 23, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Hi all, Just thought I'd give you guys the heads up... I should have the story on Duane Michalski, Dobbs' opponent, done sometime tomorrow afternoon. I have to say this is a very relevant discussion and I'm ecstatic to see it happening on Patch. Will likely have some juicy stuff along this same story line that I believe might come as a surprise to some. I don't know, maybe you do or don't. But it'll definitely be an interesting news day tomorrow. Thanks for being a Caledonia Patch reader! Feel free to give me feedback or ideas on how to improve Patch. Denise
Edward Willing March 23, 2011 at 06:40 PM
TID's that large are quite rare. The entire developments might be closer to that figure, but to bring in reasonable developments along 31, K, 32, 4 mi.... the public works investments can be sizeably matched with private dollars. Caledonia is not Racine. It has a better income base, more room, better demographics in general to support retail and industrial growth - although i believe the 794 extension is key to this. Or an alternative just as significant, like a 4 lane hwy 38.... something connecting south MKE Co with Caledonia. Racine is a terrible example to use for Caledonia policy considerations, although I also appreciate the concern for caution. i'm no longer in real estate, so i don't have any big horses in this race. I just know that Caledonia is on the edge of moving forward or backward in big ways. Change is coming whether people want it or not, we have to make sure it's the right kind of change. But the whole "keep it green" stand just doesn't wash. You can't live a mile from solid development and stick your head in the ground and say "over my dead body". Soon we'll be living in a dead town with an imbalanced and debt-ridden government with no growth potential. For the record, the water and sewer improvements need to be made no matter what. And Duane Michalski is was aware of the figures, I've asked him direct questions. he knows the situation, and is running cuz he WANTS change. Not just something to do!
Greta Mueller March 23, 2011 at 11:21 PM
I assure you, Edward, the TID is that large, hence the pay-as-you-go option, and the utility extension estimates are accurate. Only want sewer, knock off about 10 million. If Mr. Michalski is telling your otherwise, he's misinformed. Since you're uncomfortable with the Racine example, let me give you one closer to home. There was a 2nd TID created in Caledonia, though I believe it is either hanging in limbo or may actually be defunct. Only through fortuitous circumstances (maybe an unfortunate term for the real estate downturn) and requirement of proof of interest through pre-sale, have Caledonia taxpayers been spared picking up the tab - again leading to the "gamble" aspect of these districts. When the TID was originally created, it was assumed the development would soar ...in less than a year everything changed...fortunately for taxpayers the clock had not yet started ticking. Almost concurrently, that fate fell upon mixed use development that was to be the huge cornerstone to kick off TID #1 - again similar timing and similar results. We do agree, as it also seems does Mr. Dobbs, that the sewer and water needs to get the freeway. Has anyone in the past decade+ disagreed on that concept? The problem remains how to fund it. BTW, we also agree on 794 . Might I suggest, since you believe this is key, you might want to actually attend 794 committee meetings and express your support.
Edward Willing March 24, 2011 at 12:33 AM
Oh, and as for the support/attendance, I've been unable to me more active because I'm a full time single father of a 4 yr old, and own a marketing firm located in Elm Grove. when I come home at 7pm, it makes it kinda hard. :) But.... God willing, I can expand and give myself more time flexibility to get involved. And when I do, maybe I will run myself. lol
Jay Warner March 24, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Looking for 'large' companies - retail or manufacturing - to add tax revenue may be less beneficial to the Village and larger community than encouraging the 'small' ones. When a large company cuts back operations, many people get let go at once, and the impact on a village or smaller city can be dramatic. Lots of smaller operations move up and down with business cycles and don't cause huge bumps. Mr. Dobbs' reliance on the Land Use PLan is excellent. That is what we - many of us residents of Caledonia - wanted when the Board signed off on it in June and November of 2006 - less than 5 years ago. It has space earmarked for development - commercial, manufacturing, and residential. I'll bet that all the commercial development areas already have utilities - water & sewer - available. If companies like the I-94 corridor (land made valuable by cheap gasoline and a $1.8 billion road rebuild) so much, maybe they should pay for the sewer and water lines out there. Always, always remember, that business development has costs that come along with the tax income. Disruption of rural areas, costs of providing utilities & other services. Even a private home has to be assessed at around $300,000 before the tax revenue surpasses the cost of added services. A new home of any less value puts added burden on the rest of us. Mr. Dobbs is likely to understand the situation our firemen and police are in as our tax revenue & State payments drop. It will be a tough year for the Board.
Jay Warner March 24, 2011 at 05:09 AM
I have no problem with Walmart in Caledonia, IF and Only IF it is located in a region that "organically" suits commercial development. That we decided upon. I have no problem with a manufacturing company -preferably located in our Caledonia Industrial Park (yes, we have one). Mr. Dobbs apparently feels somewhat the same way. He recognizes that putting sewer and water out to I-94 costs a bundle of money that Caledonia doesn't have right now, and that any business development would _follow_ that, by some time delay. If you want to balance the Village budget for 2012 - our next one - you can't plan to cover it with commercial development income from developments that are not yet approved, much less built. Any board member, and would-be board member, knows this. Making wild eyed statements of cutting, with no sense of the effects and consequences, only makes a person sound like our present Governor. Yes, the budget next year will be no larger than this year's, and probably smaller. Do you want someone to look carefully at the options and bring it down as gently as possible, or do you what someone who talks glibly of cuts, without consideration of the effects?
Jay Warner March 24, 2011 at 05:20 AM
As for the work that went into the Land Use Plan, I only saw a small part. There were citizen committees for each neighborhood, a large kick-off and review meetings, and the citizens' desires were integrated with SERWPC traffic & land suitability studies. Much of our area does not 'perk' - drain septic tanks well - which is why Gov. Thompson was so eager to allow mound systems in rural parts of SE Wisconsin. The two major limiting factors in community growth are water (and sewer) availability, and transportation. All this worked its way into the Land Use PLan. We _thought_ about it. Discard it at your peril.
Jay Warner March 24, 2011 at 05:35 AM
BTW, exactly why should Caledonia not be half 'bedroom' community? We don't have enough manufacturing to employ even most of us; we can't survive entirely on retail outlets and trading services. (The residents of Hyannisport, MA trade services with each other during the winter, and live on tourists in the summer. The Kennedy compound doesn't support everyone.) We do a nice 'business' in providing nice places to live. The value of which is reduced when 'development' barges into places we never anticipated or planned for them. We value our parks & recreation, a lot. We value our clean River and our streams. Why should we give these up for a claimed future tax revenue, that would be just as great when located along Douglas Avenue, or in the Industrial Park?
Denise Lockwood March 24, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Love the conversation going on here...and hope to see more people weighing in on this. I'm cooking up a few follow-ups that might help to expand it, but this is a good start. Invite others! An engaged community is a healthier community. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see on here. Definitely open to ideas.... -- Denise
Greta Mueller March 24, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Edward, you're the one that mentioned Michalski was aware of the figures. Since you seem misinformed, I made the logical extension. Supporting the need for infrastructure at the I without discussing our TID is completely contradictory. If we approve any and all low taxbase development, just for the sake of development, there's no need for that infrastructure - we can just be Raymond. BTW, since you seem resistant to accept the size and scope of the TID #1, here is a link to the original project plan which will obviously need revisions when the TID becomes active: http://www.caledoniawi.com/document_detail.aspx?document_id=130 Though the 1.5 billion (with a b) in estimated increment at 20-year build out may seem overly optimistic now, it didn't 5 years ago. As well, the board has updated sewer and water estimates from about a year ago that show a modest increase in those costs. Not fully understanding the ramifications of bonding for tens of millions of dollars to provide infrastructure for "anticipated" development in a village that regularly struggles with budget deficits and can't absorb a loss, should give every taxpayer reason to hope trustees will proceed with caution. 794, IMHO,is a "hope" that may or may not ever come to fruition. In the mean time, I want trustees that can accurately analyze the current situation and make sound decisions based on that analysis. Dobb's business background gives him the edge on that regard in my book.
Edward Willing March 24, 2011 at 05:05 PM
I wasn't contradictory, I simply said that the I would receive impetus for growth no matter what, and is easier to understand, because it's straight up vertical and has defined limits. The internal development toward the lake, tying together the two edges of Caledonia takes more attention and direction now. I'm not "resistant to accept the size and scope of the TID"... I simply acknowledged that one might be, but most are not. Please don't mischaracterize my statements. We respectfully disagree on who has the edge. Being a union liutenant most of his life and someone looking to keep busy removes any edge he might have....imho. BTW, 794 needs to be a major push from the top down. unless there's vision, the village will languish. It will radically alter and determine the size and scope of any direction central Caledonia takes in the near future, or in 20 years. It can't be relegated to a mere "hope"
Edward Willing March 24, 2011 at 05:08 PM
@Denise Maybe a section with visuals of the maps on the cali site, documents directly for download, etc on the patch site itself. Obviously we could easily link to the village webpage, but it's not as professional or inviting to spend time on as the patch site, and isn't copyright protected, so you could do that right? That'd be a nice thing to link right to the docs and stuff that people discuss! :)
San March 31, 2011 at 10:00 AM
the alleged jobs that come with a Walmart by the way are not for Caledonia residents primarily. Caledonia has by far the best unemployment rate in the entire surrounding region at around 3.8% (considered to be virtual full employment) versus just about double or more in Mt. Pleasant or Oak Creek, and over 14% in the city of Racine. it is those areas that clearly need the jobs. Caledonia as a "bedroom community" has a strong attraction for many, and this is what led to the land use plan the way it was set up. As a quiet, safe home environment, we prefer having our development in areas of the community that preserve that without disruptions, and we see that the neighboring communities who went for 'development' are struggling with higher unemployment, higher crime, more congestion and higher tax rates...so much for the benefits of development.....
patchreader 123 March 31, 2011 at 12:59 PM
D: Thanks so much for all of your help.

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