Position Statements

Forward Janesville's official position on critical issues

Forward Janesville Supports Removal of Monterey Dam

After careful consideration, the Forward Janesville Board of Directors has voted to support the removal of the Monterey Dam on the Rock River.

Removal of the dam will likely lead to changes in the river’s shoreline, particularly near the current Monterey Bay area.  If the dam is removed, we must ensure that the new shoreline area becomes a community asset.  We believe that funds for a first-class shoreline restoration (such as the rendering completed by the city’s consultant, Interfluve) should be in place before the dam is removed.  

Given our ongoing interest in the ARISE downtown redevelopment plan, we also carefully considered projections about changes in the river’s water level after removal.  While it is impossible to know exactly how water levels will change after the dam is removed, we are comfortable with Interfluve’s projections.

While the concerns discussed above are valid and warrant continued discussion, they do not change the fact that removal of the Monterey Dam is the best decision for city.  Removal of the dam will return the river to its natural state; will increase recreation opportunities and river engagement; will improve water quality; and could create a tremendous community asset when the new shoreline emerges.  Removal is also the wisest fiscal decision for the city, as the dam will almost certainly continue to need costly repairs throughout its lifespan.

Therefore, we support removal of the Monterey Dam, and encourage the city council to vote for removal at the March 27, 2017 council meeting.  

Forward Janesville Endorses Milton School Referendums

Forward Janesville has endorsed the School District of Milton’s operating and capital referendums, which will appear on the November 2016 election ballot.

These referendums are designed to address the district’s instructional and facility needs.  The operational referendum, which would allow the district to exceed its state-imposed revenue caps by $2.5 million annually for five years, will ensure that existing quality educational programs for students will be able to continue without cuts.  The $87 million capital referendum, which includes construction of a new high school, will address safety, security and overcrowding in all buildings; will allow the district to achieve ADA compliance in all schools; and will address the district’s aging facilities.  

The estimated tax impact of the operational referendum is $124 for each $100,000 of property value, while the capital referendum will cost $177 per $100,000.  The tax impact of these referendums would be phased in slowly, which will allow taxpayers to adequately prepare for their impact.

One of Forward Janesville’s missions as an organization is to promote local education.  We seriously considered multiple options, including doing nothing, considering a modified referendum in the future, and supporting the referendums that will appear on the ballot on November 8, and we believe that now is the right time to proceed with these long overdue referendums. These initiatives will not only strengthen Rock County’s school infrastructure, but will provide solid footing to educate the workers that area businesses need to grow and prosper.  

While the school district’s enrollment has increased 22 percent over the last 15 years, Milton’s spending per pupil ranks last in the state (424th out of 424).  Every Milton school building with the exception of one (Northside Intermediate) was built in the 1950s or the 1960s.  Making this strategic investment now will save money in the long run, as deferred and delayed maintenance costs will continue to add up.  We encourage voters to boldly invest in the next 50 years of education in Milton—just as the residents of the prior era did. 

Forward Janesville supports these referendums because we support the growth of the entire region. All of the region’s great school districts make Rock County and southern Wisconsin more attractive place to live and work. Great schools are a complement to our organization’s economic development efforts, as quality educational infrastructure is often a key component in business site selection and/or expansion decisions. Upgrading Milton’s school infrastructure will be another arrow in Rock County’s economic development quiver. 

Choosing to raise taxes is never an easy decision, and not one we enter into lightly.  But Forward Janesville believes that these referendums strike a reasonable balance between the long term educational and facility needs of the district and the property tax impact to the community.  Better schools mean stronger communities, and we encourage voters to support both referendum questions on November 8.

Forward Janesville Supports Alliant Energy Riverside Energy Center Expansion

Here is a copy of a letter sent to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on August 31, 2015.

Forward Janesville is a private chamber of commerce and economic development organization representing nearly 500 member companies in Janesville, Rock County, and throughout south central Wisconsin. We are writing today in support of Alliant Energy’s Riverside Energy Center Expansion in the Town of Beloit.

As you know, the Riverside Energy Center Expansion will include a 650-Megawatt natural gas, combined cycle generating facility which will provide efficient, baseload, reliable power throughout south central Wisconsin, and will also include a two-megawatt solar generation facility.

This proposed natural gas-fired plant would inject millions of dollars of jobs and investment into our area, which will help bolster our recovery. This project will provide not only short-term jobs during the plant’s construction, but long-term, family-supporting jobs to run the plant when construction is complete. Local contractors and businesses will have an opportunity to participate in the construction process.

Janesville and Rock County was hit hard by the recession of the late 2010s. The biggest blow was the loss of Janesville’s General Motors Plant, which closed in late 2008 and cost our community 2,300 family-supporting jobs. Rock County’s economy is on the way back because of hard work and proactive economic development efforts, and Alliant Energy has been a vital partner in our recent success. The company was a founding partner of Rock County 5.0, the county’s economic development organization, and supports dozens of area nonprofit and community organizations annually. They are the definition of a great community partner and corporate citizen.

Forward Janesville enthusiastically supports Alliant Energy’s application to construct the Riverside Energy Center Expansion, and encourages the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to approve the project because of its long-term economic benefits for our area and the entire state.

Position Statement on Interstate 39/90 Construction Concerns

March 19, 2015 | The Interstate 39/90 reconstruction project is underway, and construction is expected to continue this year.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has developed construction plans, some of which have raised concern among local business owners. Specifically, Forward Janesville members like Quaker Steak and Lube, the Janesville Travel Center, the Holiday Inn Express and others have united in opposition to WisDOT’s plan to close Exits 171B and 171C (and access Highway 14) to southbound travelers from November 2017 until September 2018.

Southbound drivers will be able to access Highway 14 via Exit 171A during the construction period, but without prior knowledge of the construction zone and where to exit, business owners fear that most drivers will pass them by. WisDOT has encouraged concerned business owners to participate in their “In This Together” signage initiative to direct traffic to their businesses during construction. However, these business owners fear that increased signage will not be good enough to prevent a significant, long term drop in traffic—and business.

Therefore, these businesses have proposed a plan to construct a temporary exit allowing southbound drivers to access Highway 14 during the reconstruction of Interstate 39/90. Forward Janesville supports their efforts, and urges the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to seriously consider this proposal. 

Janesville Street Funding Referendum Deserves Support

On November 4, 2014, Janesville voters were asked whether or not to allow the City of Janesville to raise property taxes by $1.2 million per year to fund a five year expansion of the city’s street rehabilitation program. While the proposal was defeated, Forward Janesville endorsed the referendum. Here are our reasons why:

The state has very strict limits on how much property taxes can go up annually, which gave the city two ways to pay for the proposed program: asking citizens to contribute more or borrowing the money. Forward Janesville thinks the city was wise to choose the referendum path, and we urge the citizens of Janesville to vote yes on November 4, 2014. Here’s why:

Wisconsin’s harsh winters take a heavy toll on our streets. The city maintains about 330 miles of streets. The average lifespan of a street is 25-30 years. To stay ahead of this deterioration cycle, the city should really be restoring 10 to 13 miles of streets every year. The city is doing half that much currently and it shows. Nearly ten percent of Janesville’s streets are rated as “poor” or “failed,” and that number is projected to reach 22.8 percent by 2016. It is in all of our best interests to fix a street before it gets this bad, as rehabilitating a “poor” or “failed” street costs twice as much as resurfacing a street in better condition.

According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance, Janesville is ranked second to last among peer cities in street maintenance spending per citizen: $50.53 in 2012. We trail only Kenosha, who spends $42.24 per person on street maintenance. Contrast this with the highest spending city (Manitowoc), who devotes over $150 per capita to their streets. It’s interesting to note that the midpoint on street maintenance among our peer communities is $97, meaning Janesville’s spending on this item is extremely low. In fact, the city ranked just ahead of us (New Berlin) spends $74.02 per capita on street repairs.

Some argue that the city council should just borrow the money for an expanded street repair program, and this point warrants some discussion. The Taxpayers’ Alliance figures cited above also show that Janesville has borrowed frugally and responsibly throughout its history. Our debt per capita is significantly smaller than other Rock County communities, and trails only Appleton among the state’s largest cities. Janesville has the capacity to borrow money for street repairs, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Borrowing for street maintenance is a bad investment because it creates added cost (interest payments) with very little return on the investment. This is because we are borrowing to improve an existing asset. As the interest payments grow over time while other revenue sources decline (e.g., state and federal aid, gas tax revenues as people drive less, etc.), you are left with less money overall. As a result, the street maintenance program gets squeezed. When we borrow to cover these expenditures, the city is forced to do more with less year after year. Without a more permanent solution to this problem, Janesville’s street maintenance program will continue to fall behind.

The choice on November 4 really comes down to whether we’d like to pay for this now or later. Deciding to pay now will get us a first class street maintenance program that our city can be proud of. Choosing to pay later will get us a less robust and more expensive program, because we’ll be paying for it with borrowed money.