The proposal to fund the construction of a shell building in the Fawn River Industrial Park was defeated in a joint meeting of the county council and commissioners Monday morning. All three county commissioners, Jac Price, Garry Heller and Larry Miller, supported the project as did Councilmen Charles Ashcraft and Peter Cook.
Steve McKowen, Mike Straw-ser and Ryan Riegsecker, all of whom had previously supported the project, voted not to follow the advice of the county financial consultant, Jeff Peters, to fund the project with Major Moves money. Riegsecker said after the meeting that he would have voted to have the county pay the interest on a bank loan that the developer would secure. Richard Yoder was steadfast in his opposition to the project.
Council member Ben Taylor excused himself from the discussion and vote because he had previously performed work for the proposed designer-builder, Garmong Construction.
The joint session of council and commissioners did unanimously approve and authorize Keith Gillenwater to offer up to $2 million in LaGrange County incentives to a possible occupant of the Multi-Plex structure. The company wants to move in July and must move from its present location in order to expand its business. They are currently in a location that is bordered by a railroad on one side and streets on the other sides.
The county council voted 8-1 in favor of building a shell building in October 2012. At that time it was proposed that the interest on the loan necessary for the construction of the building would be paid from Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds. The 2012 reassessment of property in the TIF district and appeals of assessments cut the taxes to be collected significantly, resulting in not enough money being generated into the TIF fund to meet the obligation that would be created by the loan.
Dan Zuerner, a representative from Garmong Construction, briefly addressed the session. He stated that discussion on this project started in 2009 and has been ongoing since that time “We have invested some $60,000 to date and it is now time to move ahead,” he said. “I can tell you that most of our clients would die to have the large Major Moves fund you folks enjoy to draw upon for economic development.”
Zuerner described the shell building project as having three basic points:
Risk – which was assessed prior to the county making a commitment to the project;
Trust – which was demonstrated when LaGrange County signed a letter of intent to proceed in October of last year; and
Fortitude – which is a willingness to step forward and provide for the financing of the project.
He stated that when the building is sold Garmong will buy out the contract and then finish the shell building to the buyer’s specifications. “We are making an effort here to develop careers, not jobs. This is about developing a world-class structure to attract a world-class industry. You folks have one of the nicest industrial parks in the United States and this will certainly reflect that fact,” he noted.
John Sampson from the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership said that the approval of financing for the shell building would put LaGrange County in a leadership position in the region.