Fairfield Ledger

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 18, 2014

Heartland TIF hits snag

Project may only generate $10 million instead of $14 million
By DIANE VANCE | Feb 03, 2014

Momentum for the proposed Heartland Co-op grain elevator on the east edge of Fairfield hit a bump in the road at Monday’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Representatives from French-Reneker Associates Inc. attended today’s meeting. The supervisors had an agenda item to consider a proposal for preparation of the project’s Urban Renewal Plan and French-Reneker has been hired as the local partner to assist with that.

Adam Plagge, executive director of Fairfield Economic Development Association, and supervisor Lee Dimmitt had met last week with representatives from Heartland and with Marsha Cory, a partner in the municipal consulting firm of Simmering - Cory Inc. and Iowa Codification Inc. in Clear Lake. Cory has been hired by the supervisors to draw up the urban renewal plan for Jefferson County.

Plagge said the numbers were not firm yet for how much a Tax Increment Financing district would bring to the county.

TIF captures tax revenue for specific purposes, and former FEDA executive director Tracy Vance had recommended a TIF district as a way for the county to pay for road improvements needed for grain truck traffic to access the elevator site.

Heartland Co-op is asking the county to make these road improvements at an estimated cost of $3.725 million.

The supervisors had proposed upgrading Nutmeg Avenue from Salina Road to old Highway 34 as a concrete road, the same for Osage Avenue, and the intersection of Salina Road and Pleasant Plain Road would get straightened out to a T-intersection for safety.

“County assessor Sheri Blough said running the numbers, she used $24.85 per $1,000 valuation, while Heartland had used $27.70,” said Plagge. “She is still working on valuing the assessments.

“If we pull Osage Avenue out of the project, we know we could do Nutmeg Avenue with TIF and possibly use Farm-to-Market funds for the Salina intersection.”

Plagge also said the state allows a 5-10 percent rollback on taxes that wasn’t calculated into the project.

It’s important for the county to err on the side of caution, said Dimmitt. The original plan was based on $14 million and it could be more like $10 million, he said.

“That’s really different than what was brought to the table before,” said supervisor Dick Reed.

“Heartland anticipates a $24 million investment, but that doesn’t mean the value of the assessment,” said Dimmitt.

Plagge said he still needs more information, but it would be hard to do all three road projects with TIF revenue.

“The next step is to figure out where we’re coming in at assessed value,” said Plagge.

Dimmitt said he doesn’t want to cancel the project.

“It’s not feasible to commit to rebating a certain amount back to Heartland when we don’t know the assessment value,” he said, “and especially with a 5 to 10 percent rollback.

“The next step is for Adam to get the assessment value from Sheri,” said Reed.

Plagge talked with Vance over the weekend and plans a conference call with him Friday.

“I don’t know how important the road improvements are to the county,” said Plagge.

Getting the road improvements was the turning point for him, said Reed.

Dimmitt said he would contact the governor’s office to see if there is economic development funding available.

The supervisors agreed to table moving forward today and hope to have more information next week.

Heartland Co-op CEO and general manager Tom Hauschel and Todd Phillips, executive vice president of grain and risk management, told the board in December about its interest to build a 4.4 million bushel capacity grain storage elevator compound and rail shipment operation in the county, a $24 million investment Hauschel had said.

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