Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Received a Huge Grant from the State the Week their Chief Lobbyist's Immunity Deal was made Public

This little bit of news came to us by way of one of the comments to our last post:

The day before the news that the chief lobbyist from Wisconsin & Southern Railroad had been granted immunity in the ongoing John Doe investigation Wisconsin and Southern received a substantial grant from the Walker administration:
The state has awarded the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. a $6.9 million grant to improve a section of freight rail line running between Saukville and Elkhart Lake, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.


The money was part of $17.5 million in grant and loan funding awarded this week by the state to construct freight rail-related facilities, and preserve and upgrade rail infrastructure.

"Wisconsin's freight rail system plays a major role in our state's economy, moving raw materials to industry and finished products to markets," Walker said in a news release. "These awards will help support economic growth in communities across our state and help ensure Wisconsin remains open for business."

The grant will cover 80 percent of the project's $8.7 million price tag. The state also will provide an $867,181 loan to assist with the project, while the remainder will be paid for by the railroad and the East Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium.
Nice catch.

MORE: Some more WSRR news:
A group charged with oversight of regional rail lines and funds used to improve railroad infrastructure will review financial records from Wisconsin and Southern Railroad for the first time in three years.

The East Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium voted unanimously to have the consortium's chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and corporation counsel meet with Wisconsin and Southern CEO William Gardner later this year to review the privately held company's 2010 financial records.

But Gardner has refused to provide hard copies of audits, quarterly financial reports and other documents the consortium is entitled to review under an agreement the parties signed on March 28, 2008.


Wisconsin and Southern has agreements with the DOT and the consortium that allow it to use the tracks in the region, as well as tap into $30 million in statewide funds and $225,000 in consortium funds to pay for rail infrastructure improvements.

The consortium is made up of nine counties that each contribute $25,000 per year to help maintain rail lines and infrastructure in the region. Each county is represented by two county board supervisors.
If the struggle between keeping proprietary information private and open records law enthralls you, then you'll love the rest of the article.

EVEN MORE: For the conspiratorially-minded, I'd actually consider looking at the above addendum a little more carefully, especially because it was written almost a week before news of the immunity deals broke. A number of questions bubble up in light of the recent events.

The most important are: why would WSRR agree to open it's books to state officials in 2008 and not want to do so today? It's unclear whether WSRR has provided the information to the consortium in the past -- if it has done so, what could have occurred in the interim to discourage them from doing so now?

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