Local attorney Steve Snyder (L) speaks to the Kosciusko County Council Thursday evening about the eight compliance forms for the continuation of tax abatements for Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Claypool. Council members pictured (sitting at the table, L to R) are Kathleen Groninger, Mike Long, Joni Truex, Sue Ann Mitchell, Ernie Wiggins, Jon Garber and Kimberly Cates. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Local attorney Steve Snyder (L) speaks to the Kosciusko County Council Thursday evening about the eight compliance forms for the continuation of tax abatements for Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Claypool. Council members pictured (sitting at the table, L to R) are Kathleen Groninger, Mike Long, Joni Truex, Sue Ann Mitchell, Ernie Wiggins, Jon Garber and Kimberly Cates. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
For at least a decade, Louis Dreyfus Company has sought and been approved for tax abatements from the county as it continues to expand its footprint in Claypool.

On Thursday, the Kosciusko County Council approved eight compliance forms for the continuation of those tax abatements.

Local attorney Steve Snyder said, “I’m here for Louis Dreyfus because you’re looking at various CF-1 forms for Louis Dreyfus, at this point going back to - 2013 I think is the oldest one. I think I’ve been involved with Dreyfus and in front of this Council since 2006, and that means that the initial request for tax abatement has long since gone, and they’re still out there supporting the community with their tax dollars without a doubt and, as we move along, you’re going to see these abatements - another one falls off next year and continuing on.”

He said he’s in discussions with them for additional expansions.

“There’s some competition among the Dreyfus various plants for where these things go, but this county has supported Dreyfus so well, you’ve got a leg up on getting those new expansions here, but I’m here in an attempt to answer any questions you have on the CF-1 forms,” Snyder stated.

One of the things he said he would tell the Council was that over the 16 years he’s been working with Dreyfus, they’ve had a change in personnel a couple times. They’re “relatively” consistent, but Snyder said they’ve changed personnel which results in him getting a phone call asking him how to do something in regards to the tax abatements. Snyder said he’s spent several hours on the phone with the Dreyfus representative who now handles the tax matters. While the forms now are 50 to 60% better filled out than they had been in the past, Snyder admitted they’re still not perfect.

“One of the things I think you can be assured about is that they have met what they said they would do and exceeded it in all but one of these and that was on a personal property matter and I think they caught up with it on the next one and they exceeded what the representations would be on the CF-1,” he said.

Snyder said it was unusual that the county would have eight CF-1 forms to look at. “But, I think it’s also unusual from the standpoint that you’re now seeing the full tax bill coming in for the original investment for six years now, and additional investments planned and that’s because of the treatment you provided to Dreyfus,” Snyder said.

Council President Sue Ann Mitchell said Louis Dreyfus certainly has been a good partner and their taxes are paid.

Councilman Mike Long asked, “So everything they said they were going to do they have done? You’re current with the county on your tax obligations?”

Snyder said that was correct and Louis Dreyfus “learned its lesson” last year.

During the June 2021 meeting, the Council approved a five-year real property abatement of $9 million, and a three-year personal property abatement of $6 million for Louis Dreyfus. It was approximately half of what the company was asking for.

In November 2020, the Council denied Louis Dreyfus Company’s request for personal property and real estate tax abatements. Among the Council’s concerns was that Dreyfus paid its taxes late in 2018 and 2019 for the fall installments.

On Thursday, the Council approved the continuation of the eight tax abatements as presented by Snyder and the CF-1 forms.

Kosciusko County Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty requested approval for an additional appropriation of $200,000 out of the Highway Motor Vehicle Highway General Fund  to fuel and oil lubricants to cover the increase in fuel prices.

When asked if the $200,000 would get him through the remainder of the year, Moriarty said it’ll be close and he gave the Council one example.

“Just before I came over we signed one for off-road diesel fuel, which is normally cheaper, for a tanker. It was $36,517. And that was the lowest bid. That’s shocking,” he said.

Last year, the price would have been around $21,000, Moriarty said.

The additional appropriation was approved, as was Moriarty’s request to transfer a total of $19,000 from two truck driver accounts to the part-time account.

County Auditor Michelle Puckett presented a request from the Kosciusko County Convention and Recreation Visitors Commission for a $150,000 additional appropriation.

“This is to allow them to approve more grants throughout our community for different projects they’re working on,” she said. “They have currently spent down their approved grant obligations, which I believe was about $238,000 they’ve already distributed out in our community.”

The KCCRVC’s cash balance is close to $800,000.

“They’ve really took a deep look at those reserves and wanted to spend them appropriately and this will give them another opportunity to look at other grant opportunities throughout the county,” Puckett explained.

The Council approved the additional appropriation.

In other business, the Council:

• Heard Council members Joni Truex, Jon Garber and Kimberly Cates have volunteered to serve on the committee to interview candidates for the Council’s two appointments to serve on the county park board. The committee will make recommendations to the Council at the July 14 meeting. After that July 14 meeting, prior to the end of July, the county park board will have its first meeting, Mitchell said.

The County Commissioners also have two appointments and the county auditor has one. Board members can’t be from the same political party and can not be elected officials.

• Approved the Council’s budget for 2023 at $77,240.

• Approved five grant applications from the county’s IT department for American Rescue Plan Act funds totaling $203,880.13.

• Approved an additional appropriation for $5,623 to cover an additional eight hours a week for the rest of the year for Kosciusko County Veteran Service Officer Darryl McDowell, as requested by County Administrator Marsha McSherry.

• Heard seven budget presentations from local nonprofits. The presentations were given to the Commissioners Tuesday.

For 2022, Kosciusko County 4-H Council was approved for $44,347 and is requesting $45,233 for 2023; Cardinal Services, approved for $104,980 in 2022, requesting $108,129 in 2023; Kosciusko Home Health Care & Hospice, approved for $48,087 in 2022, requesting $50,000 in 2023; Kosciusko County Historical Society, approved for $22,337 in 2022, requesting $25,000 in 2023; Beaman Home, approved for $32,139 in 2022, requesting $50,000 for 2023; Kosciusko County Senior Services, approved for $32,139 in 2022, requesting $40,000 in 2023; and St. Joe River Basin, approved for $3,705 in 2022, requesting $3,705 in 2023.

The Council will take the requests under advisement during the 2023 budget process.

• Approved $68,460 from the American Rescue Plan Act fund to the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County for the shelter’s cat house building renovation. The county’s ARPA committee recommended the expenditure, and it was approved by the Commissioners on Tuesday.

• Approved for Emergency Management Director Ed Rock to submit a letter of intent to update the county’s multi-hazard mitigation plan in order to apply for a $27,000 BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) grant to update the county’s hazard mitigation plan.

This is the third time the county has had to renew the plan since he started as director. The Commissioners approved Rock’s request on Tuesday.

It is a reimburseable grant, but there is a 25% required match. In the past, the county used the hours that people from around the community put in for this as part of the match. The match has to be cash or in-kind.