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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY – The county commissioners supported at a regular meeting May 5 the expansion of economic-development areas around or otherwise related to Waupaca Foundry and Webb Wheel to be funded by tax-increment financing.
As the News reported May 5, county planning and redevelopment commissions approved efforts to add TIF-district designations to land along Indiana 66 near Waupaca’s entrance and along River Road, about 20 acres in the Tell City Industrial Park at Troy, Perry County Industrial Park South where ATTC Manufacturing is located, property at Sixth and Tell streets in Tell City and the existing Perry County Memorial Hospital.
“Expanding the economic-development area in and of itself has no effect on taxes,” county attorney Chris Goffinet explained. “It doesn’t increase or decrease anybody’s taxes. It doesn’t change the way anybody is taxed. It simply allows you to make improvements.”
Tax-increment financing is a tool that diverts tax increases generated through development back into the developed area. A vacant lot generating little or no tax revenue will produce much more after a factory is built there, for example. That extra revenue can go into paying off bonds used to finance the construction or making further improvements to the site.
The sites on which the automotive-components manufacturers sit were designated TIF areas for their construction. Revenue from them can be used only to benefit those areas, Goffinet continued, “so we’re expanding the area a little bit in order to benefit Waupaca and the industries we have.”
The commissioners had two documents to consider, the first of which was a declaration of intent to reimburse expenditures.
“Some money is being spent on some projects right now, before the bonds are issued,” the attorney said. “That’s not unusual for land acquisition and that sort of thing. What this bond does is it simply says that it’s the intent to reimburse those monies from the bonds. This is not an obligation of the county. This is all going to be financed by TIF money, which comes from Waupaca paying its property taxes. The county will not owe any of this money at all.”
The county was not making any guarantees or obligating any property-tax backup, he added.
The second document the commissioners were to consider was a plan that had been preliminarily approved by the county’s redevelopment commission. Its planning commission “approved an order stating that the amended area was within the comprehensive plan as it exists right now, to the extent we have one,” Goffinet said, “and you are being asked to preliminarily approve this plan, as well.”
County officials recently began efforts to develop a new comprehensive plan to replace one produced in 1993.
A legal notice published in the News Thursday was the next step, Goffinet continued. It explains the redevelopment commission will meet at 8 a.m. Monday, May 19 at the county courthouse and will consider any comments presented then or submitted in writing before then.
Notices were to be mailed to any affected property owners, Goffinet also said.
Alvin Evans, president and chief executive officer for the Perry County Development Corp., described the expanded area as running along the railroad track from the Waupaca-Webb Wheel area to and including the Tell City Industrial Park at Troy, the site of American Colloid, Consolidated Recycling, Meggitt Control Systems and other companies.
Traveling the other direction from Waupaca, Evans continued, the area follows the railroad track into Tell City to Perry County Port Authority property at Tell and Sixth streets, on to the port and from there to where River Road meets Indiana 66. Also included is land to and where the existing Perry County Memorial Hospital is located and from where the railroad meets Indiana 37 to where that highway intersects with Indiana 237 to include the site of the new hospital. Continuing along 37, the route continues to the 180-acre industrial park where ATTC Manufacturing is located, Evans said.
“Those are all included in this one economic-development district,” he explained. “The intent is so you can fund projects within (that area). They have to be for the benefit of the economic-development district.”
Projects being worked on now include the addition of another entrance road to Waupaca, which will entail the relocation of a road.
Evans said another entrance is needed because the company has had problems when accidents occurred on the existing road or at its intersection with Indiana 66. The fact that fire or other emergency vehicles could be prevented from getting to the facility for two or three hours at a time “has them concerned,” he explained, adding traffic is expected to increase on the existing road.
A water tower serving the foundry provides raw water for cooling and firefighting, Evans continued. It needs to be upgraded and painted and to have a line moved. Improvements at the Port of Tell City will alleviate problems experienced in unloading barges when the river level is high or in lifting heavy loads.
The plan also calls for a fund to be established to buy down interest for spec homes, Evans said. That will address concerns expressed by employers that too few homes exist for people moving into the area. When someone can’t readily find a home here, they look elsewhere, “which makes it difficult for the community and also the employer,” he said.
A rail spur serving Waupaca is 20 years old, plus drainage issues in the foundry area and freezes and thaws over the last two years add up to a need to replace the rail, Evans continued, adding a recent derailment where the rail line crosses Indiana 66 was due to those issues.
Reconstruction of a railroad bridge over the Anderson River, expansion of a Seventh Street warehouse in Tell City and seed money for an entrepreneurial-innovation “incubator” and vocational-training center are also included in the plan.
After the commissioners voted to approve the documents, Evans explained the need for a second Waupaca entrance was discussed as one that could be addressed with federal funding.
It will be accomplished by relocating Squirrel Road, which now runs between Indiana 66 and Troy Ridge Road. It will no longer intersect with Indiana 66, which Evans said is a dangerous junction and added the new access from the state highway will be east of a house in the 9900 area of Indiana 66.
Because a May 8 deadline was looming to apply for the federal aid, “this is the time to be doing that” and the commissioners’ approval was needed, Evans said. TIF funds would pay a 20-percent match required to get federal aid for the estimated $4 million construction cost and $1 million in other costs. The county will sponsor the project but wouldn’t be responsible for funding, Goffinet said.
The commissioners voted to sign a letter of support for the aid.
After the meeting, Evans said public hearings will be conducted concerning the relocation of Squirrel Road and that the TIF-area designation was set to expire in 2026. Goffinet said the commissioners’ action will not extend that. He added that a recently enacted law imposed an expiration date upon a TIF district designated at the county-courthouse area, which originally didn’t have one.