By a vote of 6-1, the Bartholomew County Council voted Thursday to spend $2.7 million of reserve funds on off-site infrastructure improvements in the Taylorsville area.

The driving force behind the request is King's Hawaiian, the California-based company that announced its intention in September to invest $180 million in a new German Township food manufacturing facility.

Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. president Jason Hester emphasized the entire area, including residents, stores and future companies, will benefit by investing $2.56 million to improve the water pressure and quality for Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp.

The corporation has plans to create 147 new jobs by 2027 with an average wage of $29.94 per hour, Hester said. The food company wants to located on 88 acres of land off County Road 200W, near the Indiana Premium Outlets.

King’s Hawaiian’s main concern is that the current water pressure available to them is inadequate to provide fire suppression at a corporate level, Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said. 

But with the approved upgrades, adequate water pressure will be available not only for King’s Hawaiian, but for future economic development, Eastern Bartholomew Water board president Ted Darnell said.

Besides the water improvements that will take one year to complete, the $2.7 million also includes $550,000 for new or upgraded sanitary sewers provided by Driftwood Utilities, Inc.

Other improvements that will likely be funded through conventional means include $400,000 on a new traffic signal and intersection improvements at U.S. 31 and Bear Drive. In addition, $250,000 will go toward a reconfiguration of radius at Hubler Drive at Bear Lane to facilitate truck turns.

In total, about $3.75 million in infrastructure improvements are planned.

Bill Lentz was the only council member who voted against the appropriation. He cited his long-held belief that surpluses should be used to lower taxes, a conviction that tax money should not be spent this way and a concern there might be an unexpected need for the money in the future.

But despite his vote, Lentz described the appropriation as a win-win proposition for Bartholomew County. The county’s reserve funds, also known as the Rainy Day fund, has about $10 million, county auditor Pia O’Connor said. There should be adequate funds available in the near future to replenish the $2.7 million if it is the will of the council, O’Connor said.

Although the infrastructure will be financed and the company will receive one tax abatement, Hester said it’s not a done deal yet. The next step is a job creation and incentive agreement that will go to the Bartholomew County Commissioners on Monday. The agreement specifies the company’s agreement regarding job creation and wages, as well as allows the county to specific penalties in the case of non-compliance, Hester said.

After the commissioners sign that agreement, all the paperwork will be sent to King’s Hawaiian’s headquarters in California. Hester said the company has 10 business days to consider the terms.

If their executives sign off on it, an official announcement will hopefully be made that King’s Hawaiian is coming to Bartholomew County, Hester said.

The company has already made a concession to local government. In exchange for financing the off-site infrastructure improvements, King’s Hawaiian has agreed not to seek an already-approved $85 million abatement on real property. But they will still get a 10-year phase-in on up to $90 million in property taxes on the land and buildings.

At this moment, the undeveloped property generates only $1,792 a year in taxes, Hester said. But when King’s Hawaiian reaches full operation, the company will generate $80,106 in income tax for Bartholomew County. After 11 years of operation, it rises to $2.6 million while the total should be $5.5 million in 25 years, he said.

That calculation is based on a conservative assumption that only 50% of King’s Hawaiian employees reside in Bartholomew County, while the rest live elsewhere.

When calculating all local tax revenues, the project will bring in $790,030 dollars when King’s Hawaiian reaches full production capacity, Hester said. The amount rises to $6.22 million in 11 years and $14.9 million after 25 years.

By 2037, the company will have also generated $2.6 million for the tax increment financing (TIF) district it will be located in near Taylorsville, which Hester said should be enough to pay for any other needed infrastructure improvements in the area.

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