Grafton business park takes step forward
Town Chairman concerned with proximity to homes

By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff

Jan. 18, 2018

GRAFTON — The village of Grafton is moving forward in planning a business park for 114 acres off on Ulao Road and Highway C.

The Grafton Village Board voted Monday to have staff proceed in pursuing the establishment of a new business park and approved a contract with Ruekert-Mielke to provide engineering and survey services for the business park, in the amount of $246,138.70.

The nine bids the village received ranged in cost from $97,210 to $550,285; a report from Village Administrator Jesse Thyes, Public Works Director Amber Thomas and Planner Jessica Wolff stated Ruekert-Mielke was selected over less expensive bids due to experience, staffing and a working relationship with the Department of Natural Resources to aid in needed permitting for the project.

Monday was the first open-meeting discussion of the business park project since a feasibility study for it was commissioned two years ago. Joe Bukovich of MLG, the company that performed the study and is now slated to work with the village developing the business park, was optimistic about the project during Monday’s meeting.

“I’m very excited to tell you we have two properties under contract that we will buy to help (the development),” he said.

Bukovich summarized the feasibility study’s finding for the board, saying MLG concluded Grafton’s inventory of property for a potential business park was very low, and after discussion with economic development professionals, businesspeople and end-users, that there was a definite need for a new business park with a good location.

“We found one site that was head-and-shoulders above the rest,” Bukovich said.

The site at the northwest corner of Ulao Road and Highway C, not including a rectangle of property immediately at the corner, is currently in the town of Grafton. Part of the project moving forward would be to annex that land into the village.

Town Chairman Lester Bartel said that he understands the village has to do what it deems best for the village and its taxpayers; towns do not have power to prevent annexation by villages or cities.

“I would obviously prefer industrial uses not be placed that far into the high-value residential development of the town, but we have no say in this,” Bartel said.

“I do hope they will work with us to provide buffers, between the industrial and residential properties.”

After annexation, if everything proceeds, the village would form a tax incremental finance district for the business plan. In a TIF district, taxes from increased value created by a development go back into the TIF district, rather than going to the various taxing bodies. It would allow the village to fund infrastructure for the development, then pay off those expenditures with taxes from the district as its value grows.

The contract approved with Ruekert-Mielke will cover engineering and design for the business park, including a variety of survey work, designing infrastructure and pricing out the cost of such work. Several board trustees asked questions about the contract and possible TIF districting.

“Are we able to get numbers on the investment needed?” asked Trustee Thomas Krueger. “Is this (TIF) close to being feasible, or is it highly feasible?”

Bukovich said that MLG’s projections indicate the TIF would pay itself off in 17 years, within the 20-year life of a TIF. He said MLG is projecting an $8.9 million cost, though design work will allow for more final numbers.

The contract with Ruekert-Mielke was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Lisa Harbeck dissenting. Harbeck asked several questions related to the price, other firms that submitted bids and why a local firm with a lower price was not chosen.

Thyes said Ruekert-Mielke provided a significant amount of extra information in its bid, detailing its staff, resources and plans to meet the village’s expedited schedule; under the proposed schedule, survey work is to begin immediately with a preliminary design completed in February.

While several bids were less expensive, they were from smaller firms without as many additional resources or staff to back up the project team.

“A larger firm has more resources to put forward … if something were to happen in that team, would (a small firm) be able to compensate for that?” Thyes said.

Harbeck asked if all the firms were required to share the extensive information and planning that Ruekert-Mielke did; Thyes said it was not required, but the additional information was still considered.

“The more information you can get … the better off you are in the long-run,” Krueger said. “I'm comfortable with that.”

Krueger was formerly the village’s utility director, and managed that department’s projects.

Board hires Ehlers to provide business consulting on the park

GRAFTON — The Village Board Monday also approved a financial services contract for the business park. Ehlers Inc., the village’s current financial adviser on its four existing TIF districts, has been contracted for $14,500 to do the financial work preparing for creation of a business park TIF district.

According to Village Administrator Jesse Thyes, current expenses for the business park contracts will come from the village of Grafton’s general fund sundry account. If a TIF district is indeed formed, current costs would then be rolled into all the TIF district costs moving forward.

“At that point, costs would be transferred to and charged to the tax incremental finance district,” Thyes said.

Charged to the TIF district, all of those costs would then be paid by future taxes produced by the district’s new value.

Village staff also brought forward a public relations contract for $15,000, but the Village Board did not take a vote. Staff have been directed to bid out that contract so other firms had a chance to make a proposal; the firm recommended was the only one staff worked with. The board did not reject the firm, or a PR contract in the future, but asked that the chance be had for other proposals to be considered.

“We believe it’s vastly important we proactively engage the public,” Thyes told the board.

That contract is expected to come before the board again in the future.

<<EARLIER: Parcel eyed for business park