GRANITE?FALLS?- After a sometimes contentious discussion, the Yellow Medicine County Board voted to grant a request for a tax abatement to a Canby firm for its Subway franchise restaurant. The vote was taken at a public hearing convened during the board's regular meeting on Tuesday.
The abatement is for a maximum of $11,400 or 10 years, whichever comes first and will begin starting this year.
Matt Wagoner, one of four partners in 4 Lancers, was given another chance to make his case for an abatement after having been denied an abatement previously.
The city of Canby has granted an abatement after a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) measure was promised but not delivered.
"It was promised, they said it would be there, but it didn't happen," said Commissioner Louis Sherlin, who lives in Canby.
According to Sherlin, a previous city administrator was supposed to have arranged the TIF for the new restaurant, but didn't.
"Is it the county's responsibility to pick up the mistakes of the Canby City Council? Why didn't you wait (to build)?" Commissioner Gary Johnson asked Wagoner.
Wagoner said Subway would not allow delays in construction, and if it had delayed, it would have missed the 2011 construction season. After failing to arrange a TIF, the city of Canby offered a tax abatement instead.
"Fact is, if the city of Canby had followed through, we wouldn't even be talking," said Commissioner Ron Antony.
Before voting, Commissioner John Berends asked County Attorney Keith Helgeson if there was any conflict of interest because of his ownership of Bootleggers Supper Club in Granite Falls.
Helgeson said he believed there was no conflict because the businesses are not in direct competition.
After Sherlin made a motion to grant the request for an abatement, seconded by Commissioner Greg Renneke, the motion passed, with Johnson and Berends voting no.
"I wish you luck," Johnson said, "but the city of Canby dropped this. If it were a TIF, I'd be with you 100 percent."
The board also split 3-2 on whether to enter into an agreement to levy a wheelage tax on vehicles kept within the county, with Sherlin, Johnson and Berends voting against.
A wheelage tax is currently levied by five counties in the state.
The state government has encouraged counties to levy wheelage taxes to make up for cuts in the state's budget.
Antony said a wheelage tax of $10 per vehicle could bring some relief to property owners.
Berends gave his opinion that a wheelage tax is regressive in that it falls equally on high-income earners and those just getting by.
County Administrator Peggy Heglund told the board at current levels of county spending and the cuts in state funds, that in 2014 the county would either have to make big budget cuts or spend reserve funds.
The board voted unanimously not to close a roughly 2,000-foot section of County Ditch 36, which runs through Hazel Run and Stony Run townships after receiving a petition from about 90 percent of the affected property owners to keep it open.
A few property owners along the ditch had asked to have a section closed so they could farm along the verge, according to County Ditch Inspector Chris Balfany.