WAVERLY – The Waverly Community Development Agency was set to move forward on two major steps in Northwest Electric’s Tax Increment Financing project.
But a legal concern and reticence of agency members at last week’s meeting has slowed the project down ahead of another July 23 vote.
The July 9 CDA meeting agenda originally included a vote on a redevelopment plan and a redevelopment contract with Northwest Electric. Mayor Mike Werner, who is also chairman of the CDA, said the CDA scaled back the resolution to only vote on the plan, after a last minute email from the city’s legal counsel regarding TIF.
Werner said Tim Moll advised that there was no concrete contract approved by either side and therefore prudent to only approve the plan at that point.
The redevelopment plan is a general agreement by the CDA that the redevelopment meets certain criteria and moves the process to the next step.
Approving the plan means the CDA agrees that the planned use of the land that Northwest Electric bought at 9811 North 135th Street is in line with the city plan for that area. Secondly, that a cost-benefit analysis has been completed and presented to the CDA. The cost-benefit analysis was unanimously approved at the June 25 CDA meeting. And lastly, that the CDA recommends to the city council to approve the redevelopment contract.
Agency member Chad Neuhalfen made the motion to approve the resolution. With CDA member David Nielsen not present, that left members Andrew Cockerill, Bill Gerdes and Werner to second the motion. After wondering aloud if it was proper for him as chairman to second the vote and Neuhalfen assuring him it was, Werner seconded the motion.
Before the vote was taken, Northwest Electric TIF Legal Counsel Tom Huston said Northwest Electric would be agreeable to tabling the vote until the July 23 meeting, if needed.
But, the question was called and the motion passed 3-1, with Gerdes the lone vote in opposition.
After the meeting, Gerdes told The News he had a few concerns about TIF.
“Waverly residents that I talked to are kind of tired of all the TIF projects that are approved,” Gerdes said.
“You heard (Huston) tell us during the (July 9) CDA that we should be fortunate to have Northwest Electric come into Waverly,” he added. “What he never did was tell us was why we should be fortunate to have Northwest Electric come into Waverly.”
Gerdes said he is not against Northwest Electric coming to Waverly and building its business, but does not see what it brings to Waverly justifies the city giving it TIF. He said that while the ground that Northwest Electric bought sits in a TIF area, that does not make approving it a foregone conclusion.
After the meeting Huston said that people often have a misconception about TIF. Huston said the funds involved are not a city handout but funds captured by the county treasurer on real estate taxes paid by the developer. These funds are then used to reimburse developers for certain approved costs.
Werner said he thinks Northwest Electric is exactly the kind of development the City of Waverly should be trying to attract.
“As far as I’m concerned, personally, I have no issue with the proposed plan, with the company involved requesting TIF,” Werner said after the July 9 meeting. “I think they’re a great add for Waverly. They fit that area well.”
Werner said that the high-level blue-collar jobs are good to add to the community and that he likes a wide range of jobs available for Waverly.
Northwest Electric has said it will bring around seven employees with it in the move from its Lincoln facility. The cost-benefit analysis approved by the CDA reads that there will be a “number” or “additional” jobs created but Werner and Gerdes both said they had not been given specific numbers.
For Northwest Electric, the delays are inopportune as the company is in a time crunch with its current facility in Lincoln.
Northwest Electric Vice President Kyle Fritz said that the company had planned to move to an existing structure in Waverly about a year ago. When that plan fell through, a new facility was planned and the current plot of land in north Waverly purchased. When building costs came in much higher than expected, Fritz said Northwest began pursuing ways to bring down costs.
As Northwest’s current lease on its current facility nears expiration, Fritz said higher costs on a month-to-month lease while building a new facility would hamper growth.
Now, the process heads toward the July 23 CDA meeting. Barring any repeat of last minute changes to the agenda, the CDA is poised to vote on approval of a redevelopment contract. If that vote passes it will be recommended for approval to the city council.
The council, which is made up of the same five people as the CDA, will then vote to approve the redevelopment plan and contract following publication of notice and a public hearing.
Fritz said he looks forward to attending the public hearing and the chance to put any concerns to rest.
“We’re hopeful the city will understand our circumstances and help put this project together for us,” Fritz said. “I think there’s some concern and I don’t know if it’s necessarily unwarranted on the city’s part. But I hope they ask the questions to fully understand why our project is where it is.”