Louis Dreyfus got its tax abatements on real and personal property improvements from the Kosciusko County Council Thursday, but not for the full term it sought.

Instead of 10-year abatements on each, the council gave Louis Dreyfus Agriculture Industries 10 years for real estate and only five years on personal property in Claypool.

Before the public hearing on the abatements, Steve Snyder, attorney for Louis Dreyfus, corrected the comments he made at the September council meeting and on the application when he first brought the abatements to the council.

“One of them was my error. When I asked the people at Dreyfus to send me the total wages they paid, they did, and I looked at it and it was, as I read it, through June 30, so I multiped it by two for an annual total of wages. Well it was actually through July 31, so my calculation was wrong and it is a total wage package, which is just not salaries, but also benefits in that wage package,” he said.

That reduces the total wages to $7,676,000, he said. The new wages of $459,157 remain the same for the anticipated 12 new employees.

Additionally, Snyder said there was another decision made internally by Dreyfus while the abatement was pending.

“Dreyfus is taking a different direction for a couple of reasons in regard to the additional rail siding they were looking at. Instead of doing that, they’re going to make better provisions for trucks coming in, to allow them to dump faster, to have more trucks come in at one time. Simply to make available to the local farmers the market that is there, rather than bringing in more by rail. They would prefer it come locally, and I think it’s a benefit to local farmers to have that available,” Snyder said.

As a result of that change, he said there’s a difference in what the total investment will be. Personal property investment will be $19,107,500, and the real estate improvements, without the rail, will be $18,400,000.

No one from the public spoke against the tax abatements.

During council discussion on the abatements, councilman Ernie Wiggins said, “What I struggle with is, a lot of these abatements are an incentive to do something, and yet when I went by there last week, it appeared there was a lot of work already done, so it really isn’t an incentive. It appeared they were going to do it anyway.”

He also said he had an issue with giving a 10-year abatement on personal property that might not last that long.

Snyder mentioned that the reason Louis Dreyfus comes to Kosciusko County instead of one of its other locations is because of the favorable treatment it has received.

Councilman Mike Long said his issue with it was that there are other grain buyers in the county who can’t qualify for an abatement, so in his mind that gave Dreyfus a little bit of an unfair advantage.

“The difference here is, it’s being purchased for processing on site rather than for storage or shipping out of the county, and that’s what provides the jobs and tax base for probably $200 million worth of improvements that have gone in that facility and millions of dollars in salaries that have come out,” Snyder said.

Doug Heinisch, councilman, made a motion to approve the 10-year tax abatements as presented, but his motion died for a lack of a second. Councilwoman Kim Cates made the motion to approve the real estate abatement for 10 years and personal property for five years, and it was approved by a 6-to-1 vote with Long opposed.

Another action the council took was to approve a resolution for Kosciusko County to be a Vote Center County.

Kosciusko County Clerk for Circuit and Superior Courts Ann Torpy asked for the resolution to be signed, “hoping to move our county to a Vote Center County.”

She gave the council information on Vote Center Counties from the website of the Secretary of State.

County commissioners and council have to approve that the county is to go to Vote Centers, but then it has to submit a plan to the Secretary of State for approval before implementing the Vote Centers.

“So the start is this process and then we start gauging public interest,” Torpy said.

A committee will be formed to study the Centers, which will include representatives of the county council, commissioners, party chairmen, county election board, experienced poll workers and voters.

The 2015 general election cost the county $28 per voter to cast a ballot, and that’s when every polling location was used for the city, she said. For this year’s May primary, the locations were cut back to just the Center Lake Pavilion to reduce costs.

Council President Sue Ann Mitchell said it certainly has to be a cost savings. Torpy said it’s estimated the county could save 46%. Councilwoman Joni Truex asked if this could help with the lack of available poll workers, which Torpy said it would.

With a Voter Center, voters could vote at any of the locations regardless of where they lived. They also could vote early or by mail. The county could go down to 12-14 Vote Centers.

Torpy stressed that nothing is finalized yet at this point.

At the end of the meeting, Mitchell told the council that Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden has done an “excellent” job of trying to get roads paved, but can only take so much money from “one bucket.”

She said the state came in, after budgets were all said and done, and “said, ‘OK you can spend 50% out of restricted money, but you can only spend it for A,B,C and D.’ The other is open money. Well, we’re down to a negative in the open money and we’ve got a whole lot of money that’s sitting in the bucket that’s restricted that we can’t spend to pay salaries.”

She said the county learned that what it increased in the wheel tax is what it’s going to wind up being short. At some point, she said the county wants to sit down with state legislators and look at the problem.

In other business, the council approved the Etna Green 2020 budget. County Auditor Michelle Puckett said Etna Green Town Board has two volunteer firemen on it and they’re not allowed to approve the budget, so the county has to review the town’s tax levy and dollars.