County approves job creation incentive policy

7/16/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Finney County Commission on Monday approved a new job creation incentive policy designed to provide cash to businesses that create higher paying jobs.

The policy, proposed by the Finney County Economic Development Corp., would offer $1,000 for every quality job a company creates as part of an expansion or relocation to Finney County. The new policy is similar to the method used to aid TexOkKan in its relocation several years ago, in which the company received cash for every new job created over a five-year period.

Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, said the FCEDC believed there should be a written cash incentive policy on hand, similar to the county's written tax abatement policy.

"We created this to make sure we had a streamlined process, and that everybody understood how the process works, how they apply, who they apply to and what takes place," she said. "We think this will be a very good tool for us to have. This is very concrete. You can't play favorites. You either did create jobs or you didn't create jobs."

A cost-benefit analysis must be performed before an incentive could be awarded. No money would be paid until jobs are actually created. DuVall said numbers would be reviewed annually, and funds would be paid according to the number of jobs created the previous year.

Money for incentives would come from the joint economic development fund that the city and county contribute funds to each year, and would be limited by available funds.

Companies could apply for either a tax abatement or a cash incentive, though DuVall said there could be a rare situation in which the county could consider approving both if a large enough firm came along and was providing a large benefit to the community.

"If it took that to get a company, we'd certainly bring it to you to look at and decide if you choose to do that. But for most situations, it will be either or," she said.

County Commissioner Dave Jones asked whether oil and gas companies would receive incentives.

DuVall said oil and gas companies are not offered any incentives by the county, though there are some state funds those companies may qualify for.

"We felt very strongly from the beginning that they come here because the resource is here and there's no reason to incentivize that activity. We'll do everything we can to make it easier to do business in our community, but we're not going to incentivize them," she said. The policy goes to the Garden City Commission today.

Commissioners also approved a revised tax abatement policy that FCEDC has been working on for many months that streamlined the application process, clarified responsibilities and institutes a $1,000 application fee.

In other business:

* Commissioners authorized another $1,000 for Phase III of the Kansas Natural Resources Coalition coordination program's efforts to prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

In February, commissioners adopted a resolution opposed to listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

James Carlson, of Stillwater Technical Services, has been involved in preparing of a Natural Resources Coordination Plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Essentially, the plan is going to tell the federal government that before it takes action on listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species, it should communicate with local county commissioners first.

In addition, the NRCP will focus on the lack of data, information, studies and impact assessments in the fish and wildlife listing process, and will propose that assessments of cultural, economic and social cohesiveness impact to communities be documented prior to any listing.

Twenty-six western Kansas counties are participating in the program. Finney County already has contributed nearly $2,100 to aid Carlson in developing the plan.

Carlson believes issues raised by documentation, comments and testimony have made a difference already, evidenced by leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add a third comment period until Aug. 8 for the listing proposal.

"The work is being effective," he said. "Basically, what they said is they're getting bombarded with accuracy questions on the listing, and they need more information."

To Carlson, that indicates fish and wildlife has looked at the data and procedural issues and doesn't believe there is enough information to list the prairie chicken as threatened.

Over the next couple of months, Carlson expects to have all 26 county commissions adopt a conservation plan and a coordination plan to present to fish and wildlife.

"This is going to be effective, because when you have 26 county governments saying to the federal government, 'We want to talk. Here's our plan. We want to sit down and look at your data.' That's very, very powerful," he said.

* Commissioner Jones sought to soothe some ruffled feathers caused by a statement made during a July 1 discussion of building options for court-related service agencies in which he expressed reluctance to buy old buildings or "high-priced bank buildings," which was a reference to the downtown Commerce Bank building being considered as a potential option.

Jones said Monday that the bank president, Rich Harp, subsequently contacted him with concerns that the comment would harm the bank's ability to sell the building.

"I assured him it wasn't my intent to diminish the value of the bank at all. In no way did I mean to impugn the value of it," Jones said.

* Commissioners awarded the Chmelka Road bridge reconstruction project to Klaver Construction of Kingman for the low bid of $84,926. The county received three bids total for the project.

* Commissioners approved a contract extension through 2015 with six local attorneys to continue providing indigent defense services for the county. The current contract was signed in 2011 and was set to expire at the end of 2013.

The new contract increases each attorney's base pay to $80,000 in 2014 and 2015, up from $76,500 this year.

Each attorney carries a current caseload of 212 cases. Categories of cases include traffic, misdemeanor, misdemeanor probation violation, fish and game, care and treatment, juvenile offender (felony and misdemeanor), juvenile felony with certification as an adult, truancy, and child in need of care cases.

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