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December 12, 2017

11/14/2017 2:01:00 PM
City takes steps to prepare for Pepsi project
Daily News

Robinson City Council is expected to take the next step toward bringing a Pepsi MidAmerica distribution center here Tuesday.

The center would offer 25 jobs to start and possibly more later on. Company representatives have said they would be interested in turning dirt and starting the project as soon as April.

During a special meeting last week, aldermen and Mayor Roger Pethtel discussed recent conversations with the company regarding establishing the distribution center in the Ridgeway Industrial Park south of Hershey. The council approved an incentive package in September.

Since then, city representatives have been in contact with Pepsi MidAmerica but found that some items mentioned in the agreements weren't clear. This was the reason for the special meeting Wednesday.

During the meeting, Alderman Jim McKinney and City Treasurer Denise Jobe informed the council that there is one year left on the city's industrial tax-increment financing district. Past proposals to Pepsi stated that the city would give $100,000 to the company through the TIF and the city would pay for any infrastructure needed at the site, such as water, gas, electricity, sanitary sewer and fiber optics. The former two are currently in place.

Jobe said that it takes a while to approve new TIF districts, requiring approval by the Illinois General Assembly and the governor, as well as letters of support from all overlapping taxing bodies involved and proof that cities have ongoing projects or potential projects with those TIFs.

"The industrial TIF gives us about $75,000 a year," Jobe said. "With this agreement, Pepsi would pay property taxes on that increment and the city would reimburse them for their portion of that."

Jobe also confirmed that the city still has money left over from previous TIF income.

Pethtel said that the best thing to do would be to pass a redevelopment agreement with the company. The plan would be explained in a resolution expected to be voted during Tuesday's regular city council meeting.

Pethtel also said he will meet with Ameren Illinois representatives in the next few weeks to determine the estimates for the needed infrastructure items. Jobe confirmed it would be a good idea to have those estimates before committing.

The mayor also informed the council of the tax abatement.

"We already offered them five years on the taxes, tax abatement on the property tax, as well as five years in the enterprise zone," Pethtel said. "We've also offered to get all their sales tax abated through anything purchased within the state of Illinois to build their building out there."

After discussion it was proposed that the city give Pepsi six years on that agreement instead of five, which the council agreed on.

Alderman John Birkofer, who voiced his approval of the project, did show some concerns for the fiber-optic costs, based on what the city ran from the city hall to the Crawford County Jail. Still, he admitted the line would benefit local businesses.

"Fiber optics could enhance other businesses we already have," Birkofer said. "We've got 10 to 20 business that run westbound that could use it."

Alderman Gene Sinclair and Pethtel agreed Hershey, E.H. Baare and Prairie River Investments could benefit from the fiber-optic line, with Sinclair saying that any business in the TIF zone could waive the fee to access it. The council was in agreement that this project would be a benefit to the community, with Alderman Troy Pinkston stating the money needs to be put back into the community.

"Personally I don't care if it costs $100,000. The city has done really well and we're sitting on $2 million in taxpayers' money," Pinkston said. "The money needs to be put back into the community and 25-plus jobs would go a long way toward doing that."

The mayor agreed with Pinkston and said the city must do whatever needs to be done.

This project was first brought to the attention of the council by Crawford County Executive Director Alex Pleasant and Robinson Chamber of Commerce President Mike Pierce.

"We've all gone in all the way," McKinney said. "The city has done their share, the chamber has done its share and so has the CCDA. It's all a joint effort."

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