Power company eyes area for new plant

STURTEVANT, WISCONSIN - Three, two, one… contact — an electric company may be coming to the village.

Though project officials are mum on the specifics, the 250-acre Renaissance Business Park, east of Sturtevant, is a leading candidate to house a new $500 million power plant being proposed by U.S. Generating, a private power company.

The plant, slated to open in 2002, would create about 600 construction jobs over a two-year period, at least 30 high-paying, full-time jobs and potentially millions of dollars in new revenue for the village, Racine Unified School District and other property tax-funded governments.

Village President Carolyn Milkie confirmed there are ongoing negotiations between U.S.

Generating and KMG Development, the Brookfield-based owners of the industrial park.

Power company officials said that they were considering four sites in southeastern Wisconsin, including two in Racine County. Company spokesman Sean O'Neill hinted that a business park was a potential site, but he would not release specifics. KMG Executive Vice President Andy Bruce said he could neither confirm nor deny the talks.

In recent months, U.S. Generating, a subsidiary of Pacific Gas and Electric, has shown interest in building a plant in the area. Its first site choice, in the town of Somers, fell through when residents rejected the plant during a recent advisory referendum.

"We're not going to ram a plant down people's throats," O'Neill said. "We'll put it where people want it."

Wherever the plant is built, it needs 40 acres of land, access to power and natural gas lines and a sizable water source. The proposed plant would use 7 million gallons of water daily.

O'Neill said U.S. Generating also needs to consider the community impact of the massive project. The proposed plant would span roughly 40 football fields and sport three large buildings with four-story smoke stacks.

Milkie said Renaissance is well-suited to handle the company. The park is located away from residential areas, already houses several industrial businesses and has access to water and sewer utilities.

"It (the plant) would fit perfectly," Milkie said. "We're excited we're being considered."

The plant would also be an economic boon for the village and round out the more than $100 million business park as one of the state's largest and most successful public-private ventures.

But local taxing agencies, such as the Racine Unified School District, have yet to benefit from the industrial park, because it is a tax incremental finance, or TIF, district.

The TIF captures all property tax dollars generated by businesses industrial park and uses them to retire debt used to create streets, pipelines and other infrastructure needs in the park.

The taxes will not fund Unifed, the county, or even the village's annual budgets until the debt is paid off. Milkie said that is expected to happen in 2009.

But if the power plant is built in the park, it would generate millions of dollars in taxes and possibly escalate the retirement date to as soon as 2005. That would add the park's $100 million-plus assessment to the local tax base.

"It certainly would help the entire community," Milkie said.

U.S. Generating runs 31 plants located on the East and West coasts, and hopes to build six more plants in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Michigan and southern California - all states which have deregulated their power utilities.

The local plant would act as an electricity wholesaler, generating electricity in the area but selling it to the highest bidder. That could mean power made here could be sent anywhere in the country.

The plant would generate about the same power as an existing plant in Pleasant Prairie, 1,000 megawatts, but use less land as the Kenosha County coal plant. Company officials say it would be powered by natural gas and use efficient, combined-cycle turbines to minimize nitrous oxide emissions, the source of ozone.


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