Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 22, 2012

City Council approves tax abatements

GOSHEN — Three companies received approval from the Goshen City Council for tax abatements at Tuesday’s meeting.

Kinro Manufacturing Inc., Forest River Inc. and Wildwood Millwork LLC all received tax abatements for expansion projects, ranging from adding additional space and equipment to a current structure to moving to a larger facility to create more jobs, according to company officials.

A tax abatement allows a property owner to not pay property taxes, or at least a percentage of property taxes, for a set number of years if the owner is undertaking some project that will improve their business and bring jobs to the area.

The only difficulty for any of these tax abatement procedures was with Forest River. Officials from the company had to ask for an amendment to a 2004 agreement that prohibited tax abatements, also known as tax phase-ins, in the particular tax increment finance district Forest River is in. A TIF district collects property taxes and uses them toward infrastructure improvements inside the set district boundaries.

“In 2004, the city entered into an agreement with Forest River and a few other companies that they will be paid by the city of Goshen for infrastructure improvements in the area through TIF funds,” city attorney Larry Barkes said. “(The prohibition) was inserted into the original agreement because of concern from Forest River at the time. They were concerned with how many parcels might be sold off, and the concern was about getting payments for the infrastructure improvements by the end of the life of the agreement.”

The City Council members approved the amendment unanimously.

Discussion also focused on the particular tax abatement sought by Dennis Helmuth from Wildwood Millwork. The tax abatement benefits those who will bring a business to a building that has been declared vacant.

Councilman Thomas Stump said he supported this particular tax abatement, but that he was concerned with how the tax abatement is being used by local businesses.

“We should investigate how we can change the program,” Stump said Tuesday. “It’s been very effective, but it doesn’t do us any good if businesses are using it and leaving other buildings vacant.”

Stump was referring to the two buildings currently occupied by Wildwood Millwork. The occupancy of those two buildings once Wildwood Millwork moves out is unknown.

Building fee ordinance approved

In other business, the new building fee ordinance, tabled from last City Council meeting, was unanimously approved Tuesday by the council members.

The ordinance was presented at the meeting with an update, with the current $1,000 minimum project cost line included, according to Kauffman. The minimum cost was a spot of debate at the last council meeting, with many council members and audience members speaking in favor of having minimum project costs before someone must purchase a building permit.

The minimums were originally left out because other local municipalities do not have minimum project costs. One of the major reasons for the fee update ordinance was to unify costs across the county, according to Building Department inspector Gary Haney. This is the first fee increase in almost eight years.

“If anything, this is an education to look at these fees and increases more frequently, so they’re not such a big jump,” Kauffman said.

Fireworks permitted over Labor Day Weekend

The City Council members also approved a last-minute agenda addition allowing fireworks over Labor Day Weekend.

Kauffman said he wanted to bring this ordinance to this council meeting because County Commissioners passed a resolution allowing fireworks within the county over that weekend.

“Many people bought fireworks and didn’t get to shoot them off (because of the county-wide fire ban over July 4),” Kauffman said.

The passed ordinance allows fireworks from 5 p.m. until 2 hours after sunset on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept 2, and also the hours of 10 a.m. and two hours after sunset on Sept. 3.

Transfers of funds

Council members also approved an ordinance and an emergency resolution that provided additional appropriations and transferred funds, respectively.

The additional appropriations ordinance was primarily for the funds for Fidler’s Pond, demonstrating that the funds were available from the Electric Utility Sale Fund as an advancement to receive matching grant funds from the state of Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The funds will be repaid within three years’ time by a grant awarded to the Parks Department by the Elkhart County Community Foundation, which will give the department $50,000 a year for the next three years.

The ordinance also provided extra funds for the tuckpoint repairs on the corners of the Annex Building, as well as a reduction of funds to the Board of Works’ maintenance contracts for $11,615, coming from extra funds from an original tuckpoint repair bid, which the Engineering Department found to be too high.

The emergency resolution moved extra funds to the city garage Outside Repairs line from the Other Garage and Motor line. Fleet manager Carl Gaines said the extra funds were needed to cover some repairs that could not be made by city garage workers, whether because of a lack of tools, training or time on part of the garage employees.

The other portion of the emergency resolution transferred funds for the Redevelopment Commission from the Capital Projects line to the Other Services and Charges line to pay for infrastructure repayments to Forest River, per the 2004 agreement discussed during the tax abatement ordinance.

 

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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