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7/6/2018 2:50:00 PM
Greensburg mayor, council disagree on tax abatement

Joshua Heath, Greensburg Daily News

GREENSBURG — The Greensburg City Council voted unanimously to approve of a 10-year tax abatement for a medical office building and a construction office building. Both are being developed by Jeff Whitaker.

The medical office building will be developed near Urgent Care on U.S. Hwy. 421, while the construction office building will be developed just off the Veterans Way roundabout – an area that has recently been the topic of economic development discussions.

During Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Dan Manus and members of the council had opposing views on Whitaker’s request. Manus told the council he thinks 5-year abatements are sufficient unless a business is spending a large sum of money. For example, the last time the city awarded a 10-year tax abatement, the mayor said, the business invested $105 million. 

“My problem is, in my administration we’ve done only five years in the majority of places,” Manus said following the meeting. “When we’re talking $100 million, I’m paying attention when there’s 50, 60 or 70 jobs. I think those people deserve a 10-year because they’re investing more money.”

Manus also referenced the number of jobs that are expected to result from Whitaker’s projects.

“I mean, what’s he’s got down here is five jobs,” Manus told the council. “I don’t have 200 jobs sitting in front of me.”

In response to that, Whitaker said those reported five jobs do not include the subcontractors who will be participating in constructing of the buildings.

Manus said if you present him with a “good” small business plan, he’s willing to make adjustments. However, following Monday’s meeting he shifted his focus to the 10-year number.

“Now, to me, as far as I’m concerned, we do 10 years [abatements],” said Manus. “I mean, every person that comes in here I’m going to say, ‘You better do 10 years’ even though I disagree with it.”

Manus said he considered vetoing the council’s unanimous decision to approve a 10-year tax abatement, but eventually decided not to.

“This is what I think, I think if we’re going to do 10 years we should do 10 years for everybody,” Manus said, “not just five years for these guys. I think everybody should be treated equal.”

Councilwoman Vietta McKenzie was in favor of the 10-year tax abatement. She said council members had an idea regarding Manus’s stance going into the meeting.

“We kind of knew where he stood,” McKenzie said, “but tax abatements are put in place for a reason. We’ve got all this property sitting out there, and we have somebody [Whitaker] who is longstanding in Greensburg – he’s been here forever – wanting to invest his own money. There’s nobody else beating down the door. We want to get some development out there; hopefully this is a foot in the door and a step in the right direction.”

Furthermore, McKenzie referenced the Stellar Communities project and how local residents were focused on one specific subject. McKenzie said if elected officials want to keep local residents here over the long haul growth and quality of life issues need to be addressed.

“The people of Greensburg spoke loud and clear when they went through the whole Stellar thing, and that was quality of life,” she said. “As long as we can start bringing some things in that are going to improve that then maybe we can get our kids to stick around and work within our community.”

When asked how she believes this will impact tax abatement discussions moving forward, McKenzie indicated they’re already moving in the right direction.

“I think we’re going to make good strides with what we have talked about this evening as far as trying to maybe set precedence for certain areas,” said McKenzie, “and that will be done within the tax abatement committee. Then, we can try to set some guidelines working with Bryan [Robbins] with the EDC [Economic Development Corporation]. He’s got some good ideas on doing some revamping, and I think it’s something that probably should have been done earlier, but I also believe sometimes you just have to roll with it and jump on a situation and jump on an opportunity when you have it.”

The council also unanimously approved a 5-year tax abatement for a future convenience store-fueling station combination on the south side of Memorial Drive and a restaurant during Monday’s meeting. Both are also being developed by Whitaker.

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