SOUTH BEND — The common council Monday night took the first steps in giving property tax breaks to two businesses whose representatives, when asked, didn’t say the projects depended on receiving the breaks.
In fact, when asked during a committee meeting by council member Jake Teshka, R-5th, whether South Bend Ethanol LLC would invest $29.7 million in new equipment without the tax abatement, Robert Winks, the company’s controller, said it would make the investment anyway.
“Actually that would increase the costs of the overall project but it would not stop us from going forward with this decision,” Winks said, “because this is not something that starts today and you do it. It’s a two-year project so you have to sit and make the decision about the economics, and the choice was to move forward.”
Teshka, the council’s sole Republican, later cast the only vote against the request. The company is pledging to retain 66 jobs and, over three years, create five new ones that pay $20 to $25 an hour.
The other applicant, Dairy Queen Grill & Chill franchisee Vandna Patel, didn’t go as far as Winks when asked the same question by council member Karen White, D-at large. Patel is seeking an abatement to build a new location at 4836 Western Ave., which is now an underutilized parking area between a Burger King and Key Bank, in front of a former Kmart that has been redeveloped as a Planet Fitness, My Space self-storage, Family Dollar and Shrimp Max.
White told Patel she was asking the question because the city doesn’t typically give abatements, which phase in property tax over a period of years, to retail projects.