Plans for the construction of a speculation (spec) building in Greencastle's Enterprise Industrial Park will continue despite concerns expressed by some members of the City Council Tuesday night.
Council President Bob Sedlack said he was worried about how the public would perceive granting a 10-year tax abatement to Terre Haute-based Garmong Construction on a 50,000-square-foot industrial building they plan to build on land known as the Sgt. Cunningham Property.
In September, the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission approved the sale of 9.76 acres of land north of Lear Corporation to Garmong for the building that once constructed will be put up for sale to a potential tenant.
Tuesday night, city council members John Lanie, Russ Evans, Mark Hammer, Tom Roach and Sedlack were presented with a resolution for a 10-year tax abatement on the building itself.
Bill Dory, who heads the county's economic development agency, told the Council that the abatement was based on an estimated $2 million investment in the construction of the building, installation of sewer and water lines and completion of a road to the site. He said the abatement is not for the land itself or for the equipment that would be added once the building is sold to a company for use.
Prior to knowing what the estimated investment would be, Sedlack said he felt the council was being asked to "sign a blank check" for the project.
"There are no numbers here," Sedlack said referring to statements made by officials that the project would bring new business, jobs and additional tax revenues to the city.
"So in effect we're being asked to sign a blank check."
Sedlack said he would like to wait a few months before deciding on the abatement issue to make sure the project comes in at estimated costs.
Dory said he didn't mind the council waiting a while, however, he worried that if the council doesn't act before March 1, the date that new properties go on the tax roles, the council could not go back and grant a tax abatement.
Councilman Hammer said during the meeting that he did not agree with Sedlack's suggestion to wait on the tax abatement.
"If our intention is to issue abatement, then I don't see any reason to wait," Hammer said, adding his concern as to how Garmong would perceive the city's reluctance to approve the abatement.
Other council members, along with City Attorney Laurie Robertson-Hardwick, said they were concerned that Garmong would pull up stakes if they felt the city was not fully behind their investment.
"There has been a lot of work on this project," Greencastle Mayor Nancy Michael said in supporting the project. "It is a great move on our part to make ourselves more attractive (to potential buyers). We've got to be out front."
By the time the discussion settled down, it appeared everyone's concerns about the abatement had been eased somewhat, however, when the vote was called, Sedlack voted against the resolution while the remaining members voted for it. But with a majority vote of 4-1, the abatement was approved.
Dory said Garmong hopes to begin work at the site yet this season and make significant process by this spring.
"Hopefully the winter won't be too bad," Dory said.
In other matters, full-time employees of the City of Greencastle will receive $500 bonuses at the end of the year despite some City Council members who balked at the idea of dishing out more money from an already strapped budget.
Councilman Tom Roach said he was concerned with the idea of granting bonuses to employees this year, especially since the council approved sewer and water rate increases earlier this year.
"I'm not comfortable with that," Roach said, calling the city's decision to offer $500 bonuses to full-time employees and $250 to part-time workers "cavalier."
Roach also brought up the issue of employees who left the city in the last year including those who retired. But that didn't sit well with other members of the council.
"If you're no longer an employee of the city, then you're not entitled to it (a bonus)," John Lanie said. "It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is."
Lanie said he wished the council could grant even higher bonuses in the amount of $750 and $500 respectively.
"We mulled over those issues internally and wanted to bring something that was reasonable and fair," Mayor Michael said.
City Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Glenn assured the council that the funds being used for the bonuses, totaling about $38,000, will come from leftover cash at the end of this year, not from new monies in next year's budget.
"It is cash balance," Glenn said.
In the end, all five members of the council, including Roach who said, "I am really uncomfortable with this," voted to approve the bonuses on first reading. The issue will come up for a second and final vote at next month's City Council meeting.
In other business, the council:
* Approved the second and final reading of ordinance 2006-12, fixing the salary of elected officers in the City of Greencastle. Section I of the document lists the mayor's salary at $46,200; the city clerk-treasurer's at $45,623; and each city council member's salary at $4,620.
* Approved the second and final reading of ordinance 2006-13, amending the text of the City of Greencastle's zoning ordinance and subdivision control ordinance. As always, copies of the amended plan are public documents and are available at city hall.
* Approved on first reading ordinance 2006-15, regarding maintenance of properties and structures. The ordinance, in part, reads, "All properties shall at all times be maintained and used in a clean, neat, well-groomed condition, free from all natural and man-made debris, droppings, junk, rubbish, trash, weeds, and the like. All structures shat at all times be erected, located and maintained in a whole, safe, sound condition ..."
* Approved resolution 2006-26, authorizing additional appropriations to the annual budget. The measure is for $45,500 in the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund for the Franklin Street project completed earlier this year.
* Approved resolution 2006-28, Statement of Benefits for Heartland Automotive. This is the annual approval that is given to companies after they have received tax abatements. In Heartland's case, the abatements were issued for projects undertaken in 2000.
* Learned from City Planner Shannon Norman that officials with Kroger, who are planning to construct a gasoline station in front of the grocery store on Indianapolis Road, have recently come to technical review with the city. Norman said the project is still being planned, but she did not give a date for actual construction.
* Learned from Mayor Michael that the annual Lights of Love Ceremony will be conducted at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Putnam County Courthouse.
The Greencastle City Council meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at city hall.