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Council hears report on commission’s activities

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County body opts not to advertise PCDC board position

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

TELL CITY – “As Jim just said, the legislature likes to monkey with things, and they recently changed the law,” county attorney Chris Goffinet said as he reached the podium at the county council’s regular meeting July 25.

He was referring to fellow lawyer Jim Tyler, who said in seeking a tax abatement for ATTC the state’s General Assembly had made changes to laws concerning that benefit used to encourage economic development. The News reported on that abatement request Aug. 15.

The legislative change Goffinet called “probably a good thing” requires redevelopment commissions to prepare reports for county councils each year on their revenues and spending. No action was required of the council, he told its members, “it’s just an opportunity for you to see what’s coming in and going out and kind of what they’re doing.”

He reminded the council Perry County has three economic-development areas, those where the courthouse, Waupaca and Webb Wheel are located. Differences in taxes based on the assessed value of each site when it was established and what it is today are captured and applied within that area. The method is known as tax-increment financing, and the county’s redevelopment commission received a report on the areas’ statuses in late June, as the News reported July 11.

The captured tax dollars can be used only in the areas from which they come, Goffinet explained. “All the money generated by the Waupaca district, of course, is taxes paid by Waupaca; there are no other taxpayers in that district. In essence, what is happening is Waupaca is paying the county for the work we did on developing their site. The county fronted all of that money. They moved 3 million cubic yards of dirt or whatever it was, and built the rail and all of that. We financed it ourselves through a bond and Waupaca’s paying the bond back. Same thing with Webb Wheel.”

The courthouse area includes land behind the building where a new county jail is being built, “and it’s going to need maintenance; jails get treated pretty roughly,” he said. “It’s not going to be that many more years before it’s going to need something.” The money can’t be used for purposes such as additional staffing, “but we can use it to buy equipment (or) to make repairs. We used the money to put the new roof on the courthouse.”

The redevelopment commission makes decisions on such uses and “is using some money to refurbish the courthouse,” as the News reported in April.

The balance for the court-house area stood at approximately $600,000 as of December, Goffinet said, and “on the Waupaca area, we brought in about $1.1 million in property taxes … but we spent over a million dollars on bonds. We actually approved yesterday paying some of the bonds off early.”

The variable-rate bonds sold in 1998 and 2001 carried 4-percent assumed interest rates but those rates have been much lower since then, making more money available to prepay the principal, the attorney explained, “so we’ve actually paid off one set of bonds six or seven years early and the other Waupaca bonds will be paid off early, which is also six or seven years early … saving everyone interest costs and just getting the obligation gone.” The next installment on a Webb Wheel bond will close it out, he added.

Goffinet’s report was for information only and no council action was required of them.

In other business, the council approved a number of transfers among funds, including $9,660 from the superintendent’s salary to an operator salary in the county highway department. As the News reported in May, the Perry County commissioners voted to make Superintendent Ed Feix’s position part time and shift some of his duties to the department’s operations manager.

Councilman Stan Goffinet said at the recent meeting he’d talked to Feix about the salary, and the $9,660 was left from the budgeted amount. “At budget time, we’re going to revisit all of this and we’ll have to make some decisions then, because he’s actually hiring a new operator … that was part of that.”

Among additional appropriations approved by the council was $10,500 for a jail-officer’s salary.

“This was just to have an additional full-time jail officer for the rest of this year to train in for our transition (into the new jail),” Sheriff Lee Chestnut said. “The only thing I put into the budget request for next year is one more. That should satisfy our move in and I hope to be where we need to be.”

Councilman Ron Crawford Sr. asked what the $10,500 would expand to for a full year. It would be nearly $28,000 including holiday pay, the sheriff replied. He offered to take any council members to the jail construction site and answer any questions they had about staffing and schedules. “This is where we need to be,” he added. “This will put us at 10” full-time jail staffers.

He’ll ask next year for a matron-jail officer, he also told the council. “It’s a cook, and then will carry over into the jail.”

The county’s general fund “is taking a little bit of a hit on these five items,” Stan Goffinet said, noting all of the additional appropriations totaled $18,421 “and our general fund is at $94,770 now.” He asked County Auditor Connie Ber-ger if that was cause for concern.

“I think we’ll be fine yet,” she responded, saying funds were available in the county’s rainy-day and riverboat funds.

The other additional appropriations were under his purview, as well, Chestnut said, so he explained them. He needed $800 for janitorial and maintenance supplies because they’re normally paid from misdemeanant funds that arrive in late August or September, he said. A $1,500 request for equipment and maintenance on police cars “is just routine maintenance on these vehicles – brakes and rotors – it’s just more expensive now. You can’t really plan for these. I try to spend it out of (a commissary fund) when I can, but I’ve done all I can.”

The council approved another additional appropriation, for $33,535 from the riverboat revenue sharing fund, to pay for a new vehicle for the emergency management office. It matched a motion of intent made at their June meeting.

Members also approved an amendment to the county’s salary ordinance reflecting the sheriff’s-office pay changes and appointed Crawford to the county’s Americans with Disabilities Act steering committee.

Acting on a resignation letter received from Pete Franzman for his council appointment to the Perry County Development Corp.’s board of directors, Stan Goffinet said the position doesn’t need to be a council member.

“I would like to advertise this position and then come back next month and vote on it,” he said, reminding the council “that’s the way we have been doing it in the past.”

“Just a reminder to the council,” Council President Steve Goodson interjected, “it is not under state statute that we advertise this, but that’s totally up to the council.”

“However the council decides to do that,” Councilwoman Jody French said, “I want the council to know that I am interested in serving in that position.”

“Personally, I’d like it to be a council person,” Crawford said, adding that he wanted to advertise the position because that’s what the council has said it would do. “If we didn’t, it would look like we were circumventing something here.”

Stan Goffinet said he preferred that a member fill it, but the position should be advertised for the same reason.

“With that in mind, I don’t really see the point,” Councilman Chet Mathena said. “We’re going to take a county-council person. If 50 people from outside the council were to request consideration, it might be a little embarrassing on our part, would it not? I would agree that it should be a county-council person.”

“We have a qualified candidate here,” Goodson said. “It’s not a state statute that we’re violating, so we can go ahead and make that appointment; it’s totally up to the council.”

French was nominated and the council approved her appointment unanimously.

The council will next meet at 4:30 p.m. today in the county courthouse.