Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor's ArcelorMittal tax abatement put off until after new Town Council is elected

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The proposed 10-year extension of tax abatement on new improvements at ArcelorMittal USA is officially off the Burns Harbor Town Council agenda.

For now, that is.

President Jim McGee announced Wednesday that council members can’t reach a consensus regarding Mittal’s request; with three members not seeking re-election in November, McGee suggested letting the next Town Council deal with the matter.

Current members Louis Bain, who was absent, Toni Biancardi and Cliff Fleming will be leaving office Jan. 1. McGee and councilman Mike Perrine are seeking re-election.

McGee said he spoke with Mittal representatives but with the size of the global company and the number of people involved, a renegotiation now of the agreement on the table appeared unlikely.

McGee speculated Mittal would entertain renewed discussion with the next council; the steelmaker’s current tax abatement expires in 2013 but Mittal had sought an extension until 2023.

McGee, who was the only council member to speak on the topic, also said one of the biggest problems was that, due to a breakdown in communication, two financial advisors were providing town officials with guidance making it harder to determine a proper direction.

Because the council was unable to reach a consensus first, that led to a planned workshop never taking place with other governmental units affected by a new Mittal abatement, according to McGee.

Duneland School Board member Ralph Ayres was in the audience Wednesday but did not comment. Duneland could have been substantially impacted if the abatement were approved.

McGee said Mittal’s proposal is very important to Burns Harbor, especially in light of the current economy and its future unpredictability. “I’m really ashamed we couldn’t find a way to work through this.”

Had the town granted the abatement as proposed, which included a promise Burns Harbor would not put the steel plant in a tax-increment financing or TIF district during the agreement’s term, Mittal in return would pay off almost $3 million in town sewer bonds as those payments come due freeing up cash for other Burns Harbor projects and improvements.

 

 

Posted 8/11/2011