Council amends Urban Renewal Plan

The Marshalltown City Council passed three resolutions relating to urban revitalization Monday night.

The resolutions came in light of a proposed call center that would add 50 jobs to the Marshalltown workforce. The city will provide the property owner, RACOM Properties, LLC, with a $95,000 grant to install work stations and a backup generator at the Max Building, 11 E. Church St.

Tom Deimerly, president of Marshall Economic Development Committee, said the company, Caleris, Inc., is eager to bring these jobs to Marshalltown and could conceivably be at capacity – 100 employees – within a year.

The call center is a tech service support company that fields calls for service on machinery including medical monitors and cell phones. The wages for the jobs created would start at $11.50 an hour, but Deimerly said the average salary is roughly $14.50 an hour.

New legislation passed in the Iowa House in 2012 puts new limitations on tax increment finance (TIF) districts.

Curt Ward, city attorney, said the Urban Renewal Plan is like the Constitution of TIF districts. Anytime the city approves a TIF project, it must amend its Urban Renewal Plan to describe that project. The city has not had a reason to need to change the plan, but since it does now, the city might as well amend anything else in the plan it wants to change.

“If you are going to the well, take both buckets,” Ward said.

Included in the resolutions were provisions to update the Urban Renewal Plan, including removing a sunset provision that would allow the original Urban Renewal Plan to expire in 2018.

The addition of the call center did not determine the need to remove the sunset provision, Ward said. The city is simply doing it because it is in the process of reviewing the Urban Renewal Plan.

“You would be limiting the resources you could be drawing off it in the future,” said Maggie Burger, with Speer Financial, whose company advises eliminating the sunset provision.

Burger said once the district’s development agreement expires in 2018, the city would no longer certify against it, meaning that putting a sunset date on the district would prevent the council from going after the already established value of any future development of buildings in the district.

The area the building sits in, Urban Renewal Area No. 4, was a designated blighted area when it was created, but is no longer considered blighted, Randy Wetmore, city administrator said. The district has since shifted from a blighted area to an economic development area.

Dawn Williams, Marshall County auditor and recorder, said the county supports the Caleris project. It has clearly defined parameters, and it is a good use of TIF dollars. However, she said she has concerns about eliminating the sunset provision.

“This is an issue that affects Marshall County,” she said. “The city is reserving the right to withhold a large portion of TIF area’s taxable value from other government bodies perpetually, forever, until [the city council members] say ‘we don’t need it anymore.”

Marshall County Supervisor Deane Adams also urged the council to maintain the sunset provision.

Williams said “forever is a long time,” and while the current council obviously understands TIF use well, there is no guarantee that subsequent councils will.

The council reserves the right to end a TIF district.

“What this does is say ‘we today, as this constituted council, don’t necessarily know what usefulness this may have five, 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Ward said. “So, let’s not let it expire because it originally contained a time limit.'”

Leon Lamer, at-large council member, said although he supports the project, he would like the council to look at other funding for projects with a cost less than $100,000.

Al Hoop, fourth-ward council member, voted to maintain the sunset provision.