Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

October 5, 2011

City Council sets Trick or Treat hours

Robert Cox Jr.
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — At its monthly meeting Monday night, the Greensburg City Council voted unanimously to make the city's official "Halloween Hours" from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.

After that, the council got down to regular business.

Bryan Robbins, executive director of Mainstreet Greensburg, told the Council that Mainstreet is considering a tax abatement for any investment within Greensburg's Economic Development Target Area (EDTA) that increases a building's value. This abatement would apply to both existing businesses within the EDTA and to any outside business that might invest within the EDTA.

Robbins explained that tax abatements typically last between five and ten years. Moreover, abatements also tend to raise the tax rate linked to the abatement each successive year. For example, in year one, the taxes on any improvement to an existing business might be deferred by 98 percent. In year two that deferment might drop to 90 percent or to 80 percent. The deferment would continue decreasing each year until the end of the abatement.

In the end, Robbins stressed, both the length of the abatement and its level of yearly graduation would be the council's decision.

"We, as a community," he continued, "need to look at any kind of legitimate development tool or incentive for attracting and encouraging outside development in our downtown area."

He noted that the creation of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district has been considered for the area. A TIF was implemented in Greensburg's Lincoln Street Project and worked very well there. Other development tools, Robbins further explained, that are either currently in use or being considered include: a low-interest loan program; a small-business loan contest; and matching grants. Being on the national register of historic downtowns also allows for certain tax credits.

Additionally, Robbins said, there are projects in development involving the old YMCA building on Broadway Street and the old Decatur County Apartment Complex, which propose to convert those structures into senior or low-income housing. He closed by stressing the current focus is on improving and upgrading existing structures and not, necessarily, on adding new buildings.

Gary Murray, city engineer for Greensburg, told the board that a sub-committee of the land commission has been working on modifying the city's sign ordinance. Shawn Green, owner and operator of Green Signs, petitioned the committee for a change. Green works with several local businesses on producing advertising signs and called the old ordinance hard to interpret and understand, noting he found himself constantly petitioning the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for variances.

Murray reported that INDOT has performed its pre-final walk-through of the Lincoln Street Project. With the exception of various sod work that still needs completion, a handful of minor lighting issues and some minor issues to be addressed at the hospital, the project is complete.

The Broadway Project, Murray said, with the approval of businesses in the area, is set to replace 13 red sunset maple trees with 13 ginkgo trees at an expense of $1,500. These trees were selected because they don't flower and therefore won't blow pedals into storm drains, potentially clogging them. Additionally, the type of ginkgo selected doesn't give off an odor.

Four bids for the Gas Creek Project have been accepted, Murray said, with three of the four under consideration. The fourth, which involved using "AmorFlex" for erosion control along the banks, was simply too expensive - about five times more expensive, according to Murray, than "rip-rap" rock.

The Council also considered the ongoing compensation case of street commissioner Mark Klosterkemper. Klosterkemper performed work for the Lincoln Street Project early this year and was paid as a contractor. The State Board of Accounts, however, deemed that the job Klosterkemper performed was in line with his regular duties. As such, because Klosterkemper is classified as an "exempt" employee - meaning he can't earn overtime pay -  he was therefore ineligible to be paid for this additional service.

There was spirited debate among the Council on this issue, with some feeling passionately that Klosterkemper had a right to keep the money already paid. Others, however, felt just as strongly that Klosterkemper's work that was too similar to his regular job to warrant additional pay. In the end, the Council decided that the State Board of Accounts had the final say on the matter and that, therefore, Klosterkemper must pay back the money paid to him for the work.

The council also approved the 2012 general budget, as well as a tax abatement for GECOM, with certain conditions attached.

Contact: robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com or 812-663-3111 x7011.