Forced out, Foxconn neighbors empty out homes

Foxconn
Jay and Carol Eckholm will miss the backyard swimming pool their grandchildren enjoyed at the family home at 12325 Braun Road, Saturday June 23, 2018. It is one of the residences being lost to the Foxconn technology project. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

It’s not likely that Jay and Carol Eckholm will be cheering when President Donald J. Trump arrives on Braun Road Thursday for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansive Foxconn/Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park project.

They spent Saturday finishing cleaning out their home of four and half years at 12325 Braun Road, bitter about how they say they were treated in the process.

“We were a nuisance in the way of this huge project,” says Jay.

They have to leave the house by Monday. The Village of Mount Pleasant purchased over 1,000 acres of property — mostly using the eminent domain law — to amass the property for the project. Once purchased, a Foxconn subsidiary bought the land this spring. Some of the homes were built within the last 18 months. Others had been 100-year-old farms.

In a few weeks, those homes will disappear.

Carol Eckholm takes down a sign with the family name at her home at 12325 Braun Road, Saturday, June 23, 2018. It is one of the residences being lost to the Foxconn technology project. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

The Eckholm house is almost empty, as they strip a few remaining fixtures for their new house in the Town of Somers. Jay is in the garage pulling nails from wood trim while Carol takes down window treatments. Then she goes out in the back of the house, pulls a silver stepladder into place, and uses a yellow power drill to take out the two screws holding the wood carved sign “Eckholm’s.”

While Jay thinks Foxconn is “good for Racine,” the project is being done literally at their expense, he says. Forced to leave their “dream home,” one where they planned to have their grandchildren grow up with an in-ground swimming pool, a big yard, and “beautiful sunsets,” they do not believe they were given a “fair price” for the property.

Foxconn
Carol Eckholm carries window treatments from the recreation room of the family home at 12325 Braun Road to their car Saturday, June 23, 2018. It is one of the residences being lost to the Foxconn technology project. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

Jay elaborates: “When you add up all the expenses, not only having to move but the furniture, window treatments, carpeting and paint” that their new house will require. Their new mortgage is at a higher rate than their present one. “Thousands and thousands of dollars are just going out. We didn’t have to spend a penny on this house because it’s perfect. 1.4 times the value was pretty lame. Here they are taking someone’s home.”

Indeed, he says, the process has been traumatic for Carol. She has cried repeatedly.

Carol adds, “People don’t get it. We didn’t make that much money. No amount of money (can make up for what we lost).”

Foxconn neighbors
Kim and Joe Janicek protest the “blighted” property designation of their home at 4204 Highway H, Saturday, June 23, 2018. Their home is one of the residences being lost to the Foxconn technology project. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

About a mile east, at 4204 Highway H, at the intersection with Braun Road, Joe and Kim Janicek do plan to be on hand for President Trump’s arrival. But they are equally bitter, and say they will display a sign pleading with the president to intervene on their behalf, hoping he and news media will notice it.

They considered using an expletive to describe how they feel they have been treated by the Village of Mount Pleasant, but realize then it would not be shown by the media. Their front yard already has a sign protesting the recent designation by the village of homes in the area as “blighted.” Their home of 30 years seems anything but “blighted.”

While the Eckholms have a new house to move to, the Janiceks do not. They have not
found a comparable house. Even if they had, they could not buy it yet. “Our hands are tied,” Joe says. He is sure they will not able to get another mortgage until the fate of their present residence is resolved. The appraisal done in February was not sent to them until a month ago, they say, and, they add, mediation about the second appraisal is delayed because the attorney representing the village is going on vacation for three weeks.

Advance teams make preparations Saturday, June 23, 2018, for President Donald J. Trump’s visit Thursday, June 28 for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansive Foxconn technology facilities. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

Elsewhere on the south side of Braun Road, between the Eckholms and the Janiceks, preparations for the presidential visit are underway. A large white tent has been erected. Seven advance team members, two in dark suits on a warm sunny day, walk around the site checking notes and making phone calls. Flags and other festive touches will soon be in place.

But on Thursday, while proponents of the project celebrate the anticipated creation of some 13,000 jobs, the Eckholms will be doing their best to overcome their bitterness as they try to settle into their new house and try to make it a new home.

Foxconn neighbors
Advance teams make preparations Saturday, June 23, 2018, for President Donald J. Trump’s visit Thursday, June 28 for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansive Foxconn technology facilities. (c) Mark Hertzberg for Racine County Eye

More Foxconn coverage.

Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be featuring the effort the City of Racine and Racine County is making on employment and the groundbreaking ceremony.