Opposition to Heartland continues
Community members wanting Heartland Co-op to locate in another location than Nutmeg Avenue at Highway 34 have formed an online organization, and about 22 people showed up at today’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting to show support for a different location.
The local organization, Alliance for Healthy Economic Agricultural Development, known as AHEAD-Iowa, represented by vice president Keith DeBoer, provided a press release to the county board and also had its legal counsel James C. Larew, attorney in Iowa City with an office in Des Moines, speak to the board.
Fairfield Economic Development Association executive director Adam Plagge updated the supervisors that Marsha Cory, a partner in the municipal consulting firm of Simmering - Cory Inc. and Iowa Codification Inc. in Clear Lake, hired by the supervisors to write a development plan, is preparing to turn the plan/agreement over for legal review. The supervisors approved today hiring Pat Martin, a business lawyer at Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. in Des Moines to review the plan between Jefferson County and Heartland Co-op.
Audience member Eileen Dannemann asked if the public could see the plan.
“At some point the Urban Renewal Plan will come before this board for approval,” said Plagge.
Assistant County Attorney Pat McAvan said the agreement was being developed and there was nothing to see.
“The plan has nothing new,” said Plagge. “It only includes what’s already been agreed upon, such as road improvements and the tax rebate.”
Dannemann asked again if the public could see the agreement before it is finalized, and asked why the board had approved a Tax Increment Financing district so early in the process.
The Urban Renewal Plan is different than a TIF district, said Supervisor Lee Dimmitt.
“A TIF will capture the property taxes; the Urban Renewal Plan defines where that TIF money can be spent,” said Dimmitt. “The development agreement will spell out that the supervisors approved property tax rebates to Heartland for only the first year.”
Dimmitt said if the county had not created a TIF, Heartland Co-op would build anyway and the county would receive it’s normal 40 percent of property taxes to add to the county’s general fund. The hospital and school district also receive funding from property taxes.
“If we hadn’t done a TIF, we wouldn’t have the money to pave Osage Avenue and Nutmeg Avenue,” said Dimmitt.
Dannemann again asked if the public could see the plan as it is now.
“Each step of the process is public,” said Supervisor Becky Schmitz, acting chairwoman in the absence of Dick Reed today.
Heartland Co-op and the surrounding roads are the only property included in the Urban Renewal Plan, said Dimmitt.
“No one else, no other property, is included in this plan,” he said. “No one else’s taxes are going to pay for this. Pat McAvan will review the plan, the board will review the plan, and nothing is set until it comes to this table and is approved. We are keeping nothing from the public. Nothing is secret.”
Dannemann said everyone in the room would like the supervisors to operate in transparency.
Plagge said the Urban Renewal Plan has no impact on Heartland Co-op’s ability to build.
“The agreement is a mechanism to capture funding,” said Plagge.
Schmitz asked Dannemann to hold further comments until the public comments section of the meeting.
More about today’s meeting will be published this week.
Dimmitt pointed out that an incorrect statement in The Ledger’s Friday article about the two legal sides representing Heartland Co-op and Overland Sheepskin Co. and the Leahy family.
“It was said that Fairfield’s grain facility will be the largest in the state and that is not true,” said Dimmitt. “I don’t know the sizes of all the grain elevators in Iowa, but Heartland’s own elevator in Avon holds 5.3 million bushels of grain. This one here is being built to hold 4.4 million bushels.”