City of Abilene

Three members of the Abilene City Commission were disappointed that Bradford Built withdrew its request to bring a truck bed factory to Abilene. Commissioners said they were willing to negotiate.

At the study session last Monday, the commission asked Bradford Built owner Brad Portenier to relocate the Kansas Brewing Company to Abilene by 2021 and the city would commit to honoring all of the requests offered, including a frontage road just south of Interstate 70.

According to the agenda report for Monday’s city commission meeting by City Manager Austin Gilley, that request was denied.

“My understanding is that the applicant is willing to do that, but the timing does not work for him so he would like to proceed with a vote,” Gilley said in his agenda report about relocating the brewery.

Friday morning through the Dickinson County Economic Development Organization, the city was informed the entire request was withdrown.

The agreement also guaranteed 28 jobs and not 100 that were originally presented to the city commission in a cost analysis.

“I am somewhat surprised,” said Mayor Tim Shafer. “The timeline was an issue for me. December seemed to me to be a bit of a rush.”

Commissioner Dee Marshall said she felt like she was being pressured to make a quick decision.

“I felt like they weren’t willing to work with Abilene,” she said. “I think if they were really interested in Abilene, they would have, like the mayor said, put a little more skin in the game, instead of walking away when we asked them to.”

An analysis by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University showed a benefit cost-ratio of $0.96. This means for every $1 in tax abatement, the community would get $0.96 in return, said City Manager Austin Gilley.

However, Marshall said that cost benefit analysis was based on 100 jobs, not 28.

“The cost benefit analysis does not portray actuality,” she said. “The return wasn’t 1 to 0.96 like they said.”

However, Marshall said she was disappointed.

“I am very pro-growth for Abilene, to have the right industry in. We need that and I will go out of my way to help a company, but it needs to mutually protect the citizens of Abilene,” she said.

She said Abilene is an aging population.

“We have to protect those folks in this equation and not do it so fast they can’t catch a break and afford to live here anymore,” she said.

She said the city now needs to throw its support behind Great Plains Manufacturing which is wanting to expand, bringing 200 new jobs to Abilene over the next five years.

“They said they are bringing 200 jobs. They will bring 200 jobs,” she said. “Let’s back them. They are a very strong company. Let’s get behind them.”

“I have mixed feelings right now,” said Commissioner Chris Ostermann.

She said the city would have been giving up quite a bit in terms of tax dollars.

Ostermann said she was under the impression the development agreement would include 100 jobs in order to get the property tax abatement for 10 years.

“They did it too quick. I am definitely for business to come to Abilene but at what cost?” she said. “The same thing happened with Highland. Everyone had high hopes and it didn’t work out. I think we need to be diligent on finding out what they (new business) are going to bring to the table. I want to make sure we don’t put Abilene deeper in debt.”

Commissioner Terry Chaput and Sharon Petersen could not be reached for comment. Portenier also did not return a phone call.

Budget

A public hearing on the 2019 budget will be held at the Abilene City Commission meeting at 4 p.m. Monday in the Abilene Public Library.

The commissioners had looked at a budget that included a 3.27 mill increase.

At last week’s study session, four of the commissioners indicated they wanted to reduce that increase.

In his agenda report, Gilley said Monday’s budget will reflect a 2.27 mill increase.

“Following the study session, Mayor (Tim) Shafer contacted me to offer a compromise of reducing the reserve amount an equivalent of one mill. I decided this suggestion seemed plausible and asked Finance Director Marcus Rothchild to update the draft budget accordingly,” Gilley wrote.

The 2.27 mill increase, which is within the state tax lid limit, includes the library increase (0.775 mill), accounts for a decreasing tax base, holds expenses relatively flat, preserves maximum flexibility, is a general fund deficit budget and represents a compromise.

Those wanting to attend the meeting are advised that the library air conditioner for the commission meeting room is still malfunctioning.”

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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