Council OKs abatement for Industries

After a public hearing that did not elicit comments from the general public, the Hillsboro City Council approved an ordinance at its Aug. 21 meeting that would grant 10 years of property-tax abatement for an expansion project initiated by a local trailer manufacturer.

Flint Hills Industries Inc., doing business as Hillsboro Industries, was asking for an economic-development exemption from property taxes to help make an expansion project of nearly $1 million more financially feasible.

The project would include the construction of a 23,500-square-foot addition to its base facility at a cost of around $530,000, and the addition of new equipment valued at $420,000.

Phil Wysenbach, co-owner and president of the company, said the expansion would enable Flint Hills to end operations in the 45,000-square-foot facility it has been leasing since the new ownership group acquired the company in 2005.

Wysenbach said the leased building was inefficient. He cited the size of that building?including huge doors on the west end that remain open during use?plus the building?s distance from the base plant.

Wysenbach estimated utilities alone were costing the company $500 to $700 per week.

Larry Kleeman, the city?s financial consultant, reviewed with the council the cost-benefit analysis of the abatement request, which came to a total abatement of 98.5 percent of the property taxes the project would have otherwise generated over 10 years.

According to the formula used to figure cost and benefits, the city and county would ultimately benefit from the abatement plan, but the school district would not?which is not unusual, Kleeman said.

Wysenbach said he and fellow owners had no intention of moving the company out of town if the council turned down the abatement request. He said the quality of local employees make the company ?50 percent more efficient here in Hillsboro than we would be in Wichita.?

He added that although the company, which currently employs 53 people, has experienced a significant financial turnaround under new ownership, the owners see it as ?still under intensive care.?

?It will take a few more years to get healthy,? Wysenbach said.

Easement vs. alley

Bob Previtera, city engineer, reported that his research indicated that the land strip that runs down the middle of the 500 block of South Adams and South Wilson is officially designated as a city easement, not an alley.

The area recently was the focus of complaints from residents about poor drainage following significant rains. Residents suggested the problem worsened a few years ago after the city street department used ground-up asphalt to create a makeshift alley.

The council acknowledged the move was ill-advised, and agreed the city should remove the asphalt and reseed the area to grass.

Discussion also touched on other residential areas of town where the city has established legal easements to service utilities. In some cases, even when alerted by city staff, residents have erected fences, developed landscaping and even planted trees in the easement area.

The council expressed the desire that residents understand that the city has the authority to remove such structures and plantings if it is necessary to do so in order to service the utility.

Other business

In other business, the council:

n agreed, following a second public hearing, to reapply for a Community Development Block Grant to help fund a water-line replacement project along Cedar and Birch streets, mostly south of Grand Avenue.

The project would replace 3,500 feet of 4-inch water line with 8-inch line at a cost of $418,000. CDBG assistance would cover half of the cost with the city funding the other half.

The city applied for assistance last year, but the application was not approved.

n was notified of the resignation of Martin Rhodes as the city?s building inspector and code enforcer, effective Sept. 4. Rhodes had served in that role for five years.

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