GREEN BAY, Wisc., (WFRV) – A vote is scheduled for Tuesday on a down payment to remove the coal piles that have stood for decades at the Mason Street Bridge along the Fox River.
Sources tell Local 5 News that bi-partisan support for the measure is growing and they believe it will pass.
That’s welcome news to the bill’s author, Republican David Steffen of Green Bay.
“60 years of mayors and elected officials and the community have been waiting for this to happen and we are on the verge of making this happen,” Representative Steffen told Local 5 News.
Representative Steffen says he believes it will be an affirmative vote on Tuesday which frees up $5 million to jump-start the funding to remove the coal piles.
Democrat Kristina Shelton, also from Green Bay, tells Local 5 she intends to vote for the measure in which the state will authorize the allocation of federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or ARCA.
“I hear from constituents repeatedly and regularly about their desire to remove the piles, not just for aesthetic reasons and increased tax revenue, but because of health and environmental concerns,” said Shelton.
The $5 million is best described as “seed” money. The total cost to move the coal piles to the old Pulliam Power Plan that Brown County purchased back in January hovers around $25 to $30 million. Still, Representative Shelton says if ever there was an issue that both parties can get behind, this appears to be the one.
“This $5 million will be able to be used for water remediation,” explained Shelton. “But certainly it’s not going to cover the entire relocation of the coal piles.”
And while Rep. Shelton offers no estimate on when the stretch of land could be cleared, Rep. Steffen anticipates a domino effect.
“If we get this approved, I think we can break ground on a project in four years,” declared Steffen. “That may seem like a long time but you have to remember, it’s been there over 100 years, and this parcel of land is a quarter of a mile long!”
Representative Steffen says he’s committed to the issue and thinks he can also get the support of Governor Tony Evers. Several weeks ago, the governor couldn’t get support from Republicans on his funding for the coal piles because it was attached to a Medicaid expansion measure.
Bottom line is that until funding is secured and a plan is drawn up, it is operations as usual and that means residents could watch the coal piles get taller before work begins to take them away.
An end is on the horizon. But we’re just not there yet.