At the request of Steve Snyder, attorney for Louis Dreyfus Company, the Kosciusko County Council on Thursday tabled the hearing for the tax abatement and waiver for LDC to their March 14 meeting.
“In discussions, my client and I have agreed to request that this matter be tabled until the March meeting to give everyone the opportunity to consider it,” Snyder said. “Between now and then, there are several things that I would ask be considered, whether it be individually or with the abatement committee.”
At the Jan. 11 council meeting, Snyder presented the declaratory resolution seeking tax abatements for a project at LDC’s Claypool plant totaling $59 million. That includes real estate improvements of about $27.1 million and personal property totaling about $32.8 million.
Thursday, Snyder told the council he went back through every one of the Dreyfus abatement requests that he had made in 2013, 2017, 2019 and 2020 - all of which were approved - and each one included a waiver in regard to items that had been installed or purchased by Dreyfus prior to the filing of the SB-1 (statement of benefits) forms.
“I also went through some other ones I had done in the county and found four that were approved and each had a waiver in it for anything that had been done prior to the SB-1 filings,” he said. “Then I went through the ones I had done in various communities where the town council or the city council was voting on it and I found another 10 that contained waivers.”
Waivers are one of the issues that he said he knew the council wants to consider further in detail.
“What I would like to suggest you consider is, if there is going to be a change in policy, and I look at the policy just based on waivers that I see have been approved, that you make that a form of policy in your abatement policy,” Snyder said.
He said if the county’s standpoint is against waivers, then he can tell his clients that there’s no way they will be receiving a waiver because the council has adopted such a policy.
“The waiver was created by statute eight or 10 years ago, or longer ... because there were those instances where portions of abatements were denied when it was found out they were put in two weeks too early. The legislature then created the waiver provision. But if we’re going to have a change in what has happened historically, I would like to be in position to get that policy out so that my clients very strictly follow that policy and we aren’t confronted with that,” Snyder stated.
He then asked that the hearing on the waiver and the consideration of the confirmatory resolution be tabled to the March meeting.
Before a vote was taken on a motion to table, Councilwoman Joni Truex said, “I would just like to say, that those type of changes should also come before the entire council. Those should never be made by a committee. Anything that’s done at a committee level needs to come back to the council for full approval.”
Council President Mike Long agreed that committees only make recommendations to the full council, which Snyder said he understood.
“But I’m more than willing to spend time with the committee so that you can then make a recommendation to the full council,” Snyder stated.
The motion to tabled passed 5-0, with Councilwoman Kathy Groninger abstaining.
Groninger mentioned that the council received a letter from Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) in support of the abatement.
In a copy of the letter provided, it states, in part, “The company is a standout in the local, state and Midwest regional agribusiness economy. They process nearly 20% of our state’s soybean production, work with more than 2,000 farmers and employ more than 120 area residents.”
The letter, signed by interim Co-directors Greg Fitzloff and Suzie Light, also states, “They are now proposing more than $50 million in plant upgrades to diversify their production and to simplify their logistics, which will help ensure the Claypool facility continues to be competitive in the evolving agribusiness economy. They also plan to increase their ... well-paid, highly skilled workforce by nearly 10%.”
In other business, the County Council approved:
• A $1,079 additional appropriation, as requested by Circuit Court Judge Mike Reed, from the Court Reform Grant to equipment.
The equipment to be purchased is an AI (artificial intelligence) program that does real-time transcription voice and text. All five Kosciusko County courts will share one. It will help the courts with ADA compliance.
“Once we get the program, it’s $1 an hour to use instead of with a real person who is $180 an hour. So we’ll save money quite quickly,” Reed stated.
• Health Department Administrator Bob Weaver’s request for an additional appropriation from Health First Indiana to fund the county’s new health coordinator. The additional appropriation includes funds for the fund coordinator ($54,100), social security/Medicare ($4,140) and retirement contributions ($6,060).
A salary ordinance amendment for the fund coordinator at $54,077 also was approved, with Weaver’s request that the position be an exempt position, which means there will be no overtime cash enumeration and no compensation time given for overtime.
• Community Corrections Director Barry Andrew’s request for a $10,000 additional appropriation from Adult Drug Court PSC Grant 2024 to training and seminars ($5,000), drug testing supplies ($2,500) and incentives ($2,500).
The council also approved his request to apply for two grants from the Indiana Department of Corrections. One is for $350,755 for Community Corrections and the other is for $82,746 for Community Corrections Drug Court. The County Commissioners approved his request Jan. 30.
• An additional appropriation and salary ordinance amendment for $41,914 from property reassessment permit field assessor to building permit field assessor, as requested by the county assessor’s office.
• An additional appropriation for $4,219 from the prosecutor’s office senior prosecutor HUB grant to conference expenses. The additional appropriation will allow the funds to be put in another account where the money can be spent and the prosecutor’s office will eventually eliminate the HUB account.
• The reallocation of $11,500 in American Rescue Plan Act funds that was leftover from the county’s grant to the Beaman Home for windows at Mary Ann’s Place. The money will be used for additional new windows.
• For Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Mulligan to apply for a reimburseable 1-to-1 grant for four body cameras and three years of storage. The total for the entire project is $9,094, he said, and the county would pay half of that plus $110 in shipping costs with the other half being paid for by the grant.
• The sheriff’s office commissary report for July to December 2023 as presented by Sheriff Jim Smith.
• The reappointment of Jim Haney to the Lakeland Regional Sewer District Board for another four-year term.
• Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell to serve on the Kosciusko County Community Recovery Program Advisory Board as the council’s representative.
• Long to be reappointed to the county’s ARPA committee for a one-year term, expiring Dec. 31, 2024.
• A correction that Parks Board Vice President Aggie Sweeney’s term is for four years and not two years. Her term expires Dec. 31, 2027.
• The council business travel policy as presented.