Published in the Iola Register on Jul. 5, 2013.

City manager recomends TIF plan

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

City Manager Larry Uri recommended the Concordia City Commissioners Wednesday night formulate a plan to use nearly $700,000 of remaining tax increment financing dollars to address blighted areas.
The Concordia Redevelopment District 2000 (the TIF district) will expire at the end of 2020. Between now and then, Uri said, the district can expect to receive approximately $100,000 a year over and above the amounts required to pay existing TIF debt. Uri said the clear intent of the TIF district, when it was formed, was to address blighted areas within the district. In 2000, city staff prepared a report detailing blighted conditions, and Uri said many have been addressed, but a number remain.
Among the conditions listed in the original report are alleys that are not conducive to parking, insufficient main street parking, renovation needed for the downtown streetscape, poor aesthetic connectivity between downtown and Highway 81, and the poor condition of the sanitary sewer system.
"We speak of using TIF for economic development and sometimes we debate whether a proposed project is directly enough related to economic development to justify expenditure of TIF funds," Uri said. "However, the TIF statutes address economic development in terms of removing blight."
Uri said he would like the Commissioners to focus on removing blight in the downtown area. He said an improved streetscape in the downtown area would promote investment and benefit the merchants.
"I think we could do it up right and put the downtown in shape for another 30 years, and by doing so give our merchants the opportunity to prosper down there," Uri said. "We'd probably have enough money to do some serious good."
Uri, who was city attorney at the formation of the TIF district, said Commissioners at the time knew that an increment in the south development would raise more than one in the downtown area.
"We're not going to have increment projects downtown that will pay for themselves," he said. "I think that was understood when we started this district. The idea was to take the extra increment from out south and use it to address blighted conditions downtown."
No where in the TIF documents, Uri said, does it say the idea is to save the money.
"You don't see in them that we're going to get to a certain point where we're going to start saving money with the object of passing it down to the governing bodies," he said.
The city's TIF partners are Cloud County Community College, USD 333, and Cloud County.
At their next regular meeting on July 17, the City Commission will have public hearings for two TIF projects -- the replacement of the sidewalk on the east side of Kristy's Family Restaurant, and $100,000 for the Brown Grand Theatre for its ongoing restoration project.
Uri said he had heard that the City Commission may have some protest at the next meeting in regard to the projects.
No action was taken on Uri's recommendation, but he suggested it be discussed during budget planning.
In other business, the Commission approved a mortgage release and security agreement that will allow creditors of Threads for Him to sell the business. A local business owner has purchased Threads, and plans to combine it with their existing business.
In 2011, Threads for Him owners Chris and Kristina Edin received a $78,700 loan from the Concordia revolving loan fund, as well as a $45,000 loan from the Startup Kansas program. The business closed earlier this year.
Uri said the terms of the settlement will pay the first mortgage, which is held by Central National Bank, but it provides no repayment to the city's revolving loan fund, nor to the Startup Kansas fund.
While the city has to write off the loan, Uri said he felt the bank had done an excellent job of achieving the settlement to allow the business to reopen under new management.
"In the long term, we accomplish something," Uri said. "The building was remodeled and will be reopened, and I think it's in the city's and community's best interest to go along with this."
Uri said this is the first default on a revolving loan, but that there is still $422,000 in the fund. He said the fund is not tax money, but originally came from the state.
The Commission approved a bid from Budreau Construction, Clyde, to build a new restroom by the peewee fields at the Concordia Sports Complex. Director of Public Works Ron Copple said the bid was for $84,400, and that the city already had $67,000 from the wind farm gift fund. He proposed moving $17,400 out of the capital improvement fund, which he had reserved for work on 5th Street, to make up the difference.
Copple also said the Optimist Club had donated $15,000 to be used for a restroom at Rasure Field. The estimate for the building is $36,978, and he recommended using $22,000 from his CIP fund to make up the difference. He said the Rasure Field restroom will be built mostly by city employees, in an effort to make it less expensive.
The Commission also approved the appointment of Lance Link, Cynthia Reimann and Everett Ford to four-year terms on the Airport Advisory Board. The vote was 4-1, with Marsha Wentz casting the dissenting vote. Reimman will replace Kirk Lowell, who did not seek to be reappointed.
The Commissioners adjourned to Monday, July 8 at 3 p.m., where they will discuss the 2014 budget.