Chesterton Tribune



Indiana Flame abatement cut back; hearing June 12 on lower amount

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A request by Indiana Flame Services for tax abatement for its slab-conditioning and treatment operations at ArcelorMittal was scaled back Wednesday because about $2 million a year in planned upgrades isn’t considered a capitalized investment.

The Burns Harbor Town Council voted 5-0 giving preliminary approval to a resolution identifying a total $155,000 of new expenditures tied to Reasearch and Development over five years as qualifying for abatement. The designation will save IFS about $4,500 in personal property taxes over nine years.

Although the abatement term is for five years, each year eligible investments are made begins a new five-year cycle so it will take nine years for all tax breaks to roll off, according to town financial advisor Dan Botich of Cender & Company.

A required public hearing on the proposed abatement will take place at the June 12 council meeting. Notice of the hearing will be given to about 11 overlapping taxing units affected by the abatement.

Botich said over the nine-year period the town’s combined cumulative funds would not collect an estimated $79, and the Duneland School Corp.’s capital projects fund an estimated $680. In all about $800 in taxes that likely would have been collected by the affected taxing units won’t materialize.

Councilman Greg Miller said the $800 figure is a good investment compared to the $240,000 in Indiana economic-development training grants IFS will receive. Burns Harbor has to provide some local incentive for the grants to be awarded.

The company’s upgrade plan includes six new employees; two have been hired already. The four remaining hires each would have an average salary of about $55,000 a year, said attorney Greg Babcock representing IFS.

Company director Eliot Weiner said IFS wants to leave the door open for tax abatement on future multi-million investments by the firm. The company’s current contracts with Mittal begin expiring in 2017 and extension negotiations will take place.

Town attorney Bob Welsh, who read the six-page, single-spaced abatement resolution aloud before adoption, said IFS will reimburse the town for legal and other professional fees Burns Harbor incurs in the preparation and adoption of the abatement.

Six grounds for terminating the abatement are included in the agreement.

Council member Mike Perrine asked why the Town Council and not the Redevelopment Commission was hearing the abatement request when the town has handled former abatements both ways. He suggested establishing a firm policy for the future.

Welsh said there’s no legal requirement to involve the RDC and whether to do so is at the council’s discretion.

Perrine said if the IFS request had gone to the town RDC, a Duneland School Board member sits on that commission. Babcock said Duneland is one of the several jurisdictions that will receive required notice of the June 12 council hearing.

Councilman Jeff Freeze said although the RDC is the best way to go, the rules involving IFS’s state training grant changed mid-stream triggering the abatement request.

The five Town Council members comprise the RDC membership in addition to the Duneland appointee.

In other business, Botich was asked to prepare a financial impact statement on American Tower’s offer for a lump-sum signing fee to extend the town’s current contract that leases land it owns to American for a cellular communications tower. Council member Gene Weibl expressed concern that the town might lock itself into a payment schedule that doesn’t reflect future tower-lease rates.

In other business:

*  Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said last month the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved adding a new fee onto Burns Harbor residents’ water bills to pay for hydrant maintenance. The fee will be pro-rated on the next bill.

*  The council approved donating $2,000 to the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce’s lakefront fireworks display at Indiana Dunes State Park; Burns Harbor donated $2,200 last year. Also OK’d was $300, the same as last year, for fireworks at the July 4 festival at Hawthorne Park in Porter.

*  Town marshal Mike Heckman and his crew were thanked by both the Town Council and Park Board member Marcus Rogala for removing a dirt pile at Lakeland Park saving the town the cost to have it hauled away. Dick Davis gave the park fill.

*  Heckman reported town police handled 287 incidents in April including three traffic accidents, and fire chief Bill Arney said firefighters spent 14 hours 29 minutes at emergency scenes. As Sanitation superintendent, Arney said vacuum trucks will be around town cleaning lift stations next week.

*  Council members voted unanimously to promote police officer Michael Chandler to corporal after two years of service.

*  The council adopted on final reading an ordinance giving residents the right to ask for a hearing prior to water service being shut off for unpaid sewer bills.

*  Jordan was authorized to contract for mosquito fogging in town as the need arises this summer. Up to four applications not to exceed $1,000 per application was approved. She said typically three applications are needed depending on the weather.

*  It was agreed Street Superintendent Randy Skalku would find a solution to eliminate standing water on the south side of the town hall near the police entrance following rains.

*  Applications for town scholarships, either for students or adults continuing their education, are available at the town hall; deadline to submit is June 30.

*  Resident Ray Poparad asked why the sides of some town roads are eroding away. Some patching has been done, but Perrine said lack of funds is a problem. President Jim McGee said it’s early in the road-repair season.

*  Brush pick-up will continue on the first and third Mondays of the month, weather permitting, said Skalku. He reminded residents May 23 is spring large pick-up garbage day.



Posted 5/9/2013