Committee supports 5 TIF projects

A committee charged with making recommendations on the distribution of funds generated through Vandalia’s Tax Increment Financing program is supporting TIF aid to five applicants.

That committee also tabled two applications, including one for assistance to make needed improvements to the Liberty Theater building on South Fourth Street and one for improvements to Vandalia Community High School.

The city’s TIF committee, which is made up of representatives from local financial institutions and real estate agencies, agreed to hold off on assistance requested by Dennis Grubaugh to give Grubaugh time to see if he can develop an alternative source of funding for the project.

Grubaugh told TIF committee members that some major work is needed in order for the Liberty Theater building to be saved. And, Grubaugh said, he and a number of other individuals believe the building should be saved.

“It’s a historical landmark,” Grubaugh said. “It’s something that needs to be saved if at all possible. It’d be a shame to lose it.”

The building sustained major roof damage in a February storm.

“There are some serious roof issues,” Grubaugh said, explaining that a significant amount of water has gotten into the building since the winter storm. “It’s been leaking a long time.”

Grubaugh, who purchased the building after the roof was damaged, said that he would like to have improvements to the building completed by 2010, which is the building’s 100th anniversary.

But, before he can proceed, he has to determine what exactly to do with the building. He said that he hopes to prevent the demolition of the building, but that won’t be possible if he can’t generate the funds necessary to complete the work.

Grubaugh estimated that he would need to come up with about $400,000 for the improvements. He has estimated the project cost at $1.1 million.

He told TIF committee members that in working on his plan to save the building, he has received “more than one offer” from individuals who might be interested in operating a theater in that building once improvements are completed.

The TIF committee, asked to form recommendations on TIF distributions formulated by city officials, was considering a TIF grant of $7,500 and a 100-percent reimbursement on new property tax monies generated by improvements for the next 12 years.

Grubaugh said that while he appreciates the offer of property tax reimbursements, what he needs is funds that are available now to pay for materials and any outside contractors.

Ernie Chappel, president of First National Bank in Ramsey, Vandalia and Patoka, told Grubaugh that he understands that many individuals would like to see the building saved. But, at some point, it could be fiscally unwise to put a significant amount of money into the building, he said.

Chappel suggested that Grubaugh consider forming a foundation that individuals could participate in for the project. Grubaugh needs to find out, Chappel said, whether people who truly want to save the building would be willing to help financially support that effort.

Grubaugh could set a time period for the donation of monies to the foundation, and if sufficient funds are not generated at the end of that period, the foundation monies could be used for other community projects, Chappel said.

The TIF committee also tabled a request for an $18,500 grant for new windows at Vandalia Community High School, citing the need for more information about the project from Vandalia Community School District officials.

Some of the TIF committee members said they believed that the existing windows are not that old, and wondered why new windows are needed.

The committee did approve five requests for TIF assistance:

• Tiger Lily Flower Shop, a $24,000 grant for phase II of an improvement project that includes the renovation of a basement into an area to be used for customer consultations.

• Hunter Appliances, a $7,500 grant and 70-percent reimbursement on new property taxes for 10 years. Alan and Deb Hunter are planning a renovation and expansion project to their business at Fifth and Orchard streets.

• George Huber, a $2,000 grant for improvements to his building in the 100 block of South Fifth Street.

Leo Murray, a $3,000 grant for improvements to the Twice Nice building in the 400 block of West Gallatin Street.

• Evans Public Library, a $7,500 grant to be used toward the replacement of ceiling tiles.

The committee was working with about $140,000 in TIF funds, out of the $385,000 available during fiscal year 2008-09.

JoAnn Givens, the city’s director of economic development and tourism, explained that the city originally had just one TIF funds distribution, but switched to distributions in August and February.

The change was made, she said, because of complaints about no TIF funds being available for projects after the lone distribution early in the year.

That change was included in the revised guidelines for the TIF program recently developed.

“These are not laws or policies,” Givens told committee members. “They’re just guidelines that can be used.”

The guidelines include setting aside some TIF monies for “proactive projects.”

Givens explained that the city will use those monies to address “problem,” or blighted, areas in the community. The city will approach owners of the problem areas and offer TIF monies to take care of the problems, she said.

The city plans to take on six such projects each year, three during each of the six-month intervals of TIF distributions. For the current period, $30,000 is available.

While city officials will select the proactive projects, Givens said, they will accept recommendations from residents of the community.

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