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City reacts to county veto of TIF project

Staff writers

Marion County Commission voted Monday to veto a proposal from the City of Peabody for a tax increment financing district in the city’s historic downtown area.

Peabody City Council’s reaction to the news at its meeting Monday night was one of confusion, Peabody Main Street Association Executive Director Shane Marler said Tuesday.

Commissioners allowed a project with a bigger potential effect for Hillsboro in 2008, he noted. The taxes at stake in Peabody’s plan were minuscule by comparison, he said.

Especially confusing was that the commission rejected the plan after the city did its due diligence, answering questions from the county and USD 398. Marler asserted the city might have been able to pass the plan if it hadn’t been as direct.

“In essence, we get punished for doing it right,” Marler said. “Ultimately, because we were forthcoming, our project fell through.”

Peabody officials met with the commission Dec. 20 to discuss the plan and answer any questions. Marler said he encouraged commissioners to call him if they had questions later, but never heard from them.

Before voting to veto the TIF plan, commissioner Dan Holub said he didn’t like the complexity of tax increment financing.

“We did our part to answer his questions,” Marler said. “Not understanding a proposal isn’t a good reason to veto a project.”

He said he and the city council were particularly disappointed by the lack of support from Commission Chairman Randy Dallke, whose district includes Peabody.

The commission’s rejection of the TIF plan raised a question of what the county is willing to do to help Peabody’s economic development efforts, he said.

“What it shows us is that we’re on an island and don’t have support from our county,” Marler said.

The city has four options to replace the TIF plan: scrap the planned improvements, raise taxes to pay for the improvements, use special assessments to pay for the improvements, or rearrange the budget. Marler said he didn’t think the council would support raising taxes or instituting special assessments.

In other business:

  • Council members selected an employee health plan and agreed that before the next sign-up period they needed to research the possibility of joining a larger group such as state municipalities.
  • The council agreed to spend $1,510 to purchase a spare pump for the small sewer lift station on the northeast side of Peabody.
  • An expenditure of $1,525 to purchase a one-year service contract with Microcomm, which handles the telemetry system for the water tower, was authorized.
  • The council convened into the Peabody Development Corp. and entered a 15-minute executive session to discuss the acquisition of real property. No action was taken on return to open session and Mayor Larry Larsen reconvened the meeting as Peabody City Council.
  • Economic Development and Peabody Main Street Director Shane Marler presented an annual report from the two groups. The report was a review of the 2010 accomplishments, projects, and awards, as well as plans for the future. He announced the report would also be on the city website.
  • City Administrator Mac Manning reported that safety upgrades to city buildings requested by the state after a labor inspection have been made.
  • Council members selected dates for meetings of the finance, personnel, and street committees.

The next council meeting will be 7 p.m. Jan. 24.

Last modified Jan. 12, 2011

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