Marion council OKs tax abatements

The Marion City Council hesitated Monday before extending tax abatements for both Marion Die and Fixture and Mid-America Marble Products.

There wasn’t much question about Marion Die, an older established business that everyone seemed to agree had always done what it said it would do given breaks.

But Councilor Gene Winkler led the questioning on Mid-America Marble Products, noting that an earlier agreement from the business seemed to imply adding three new employees while in reality it has two owners and one employee.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin, after reviewing agreements for the two businesses, acknowledged that Marion Die has such a long track record that it is a known factor while Mid-America Marble Products has existed such a short time that its performance is subject to review.

“But that doesn’t mean I recommend nixing their agreement,” he added.

Baldwin said the council should weigh the benefits to the city for business abatements which are given, such as increasing employment and export of cash-producing goods from the city.

Economic Development Director Jami Williams said Mid-America Marble Products will add a new employee soon.

Baldwin said the ordinance governing giving business aid and abatement for Marion is relatively old and flexible allowing the council “to pretty much do what you want to do.”

He contrasted it with those for other cities, such as Hillsboro’s, where business aid is set by formula.

The council approved abatement for Marion Die and Fixture, 5-0. They approved abatement for Mid-America Marble Products subject to periodic review, 4-1. Councilor Stacey Collett voted against.

The council also voted 4-0, Collett abstaining because of relationship, to grant $5,000 to a third business, Marion Marble and Granite Works, for trade expansion.

They approved a $7,000 appropriation to the Chamber of Commerce.

Councilor Jerry Kline’s suggestion of putting out bids for somebody to mow the city dikes for hay instead of just having the expense for mowing off the grass was approved 5-0.

The agreement he outlined would require such things as having hay bales moved off within 30 days, weather permitting.

Collett suggested doing the same hay bids for the industrial park.

The council agreed to study a suggestion by Collett that businesses expanding electrical use be required to pay for additional transformers. He said city records show that it is taking five to 10 years for electrical usage to pay off the cost of new industrial transformers.

Public Works Director Harvey Sanders said additional revenue for transformers could be gained by installing demand meters that would work somewhat like charging more for electrical peak demand hours.

The council noted that meters could be used as bargaining points to induce businesses to locate in Marion.

Bud Hannaford was approved for a three-year reappointment to the museum board.

The councilmen approved the 2006 fourth quarter financial statement, the December investment and collateral report, the December financial statement, and transfers for such things as bond payment. Clerk Angela Lange noted the budget ended the year at 66 percent.

After presentation of alternative health insurance from Susan Dindinger of Truenorth Companies L.C., the council approved agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield and co-pay of employee insurance the same as last year.

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