Sibley, Iowa — About two dozen people crowded the Osceola County Courtroom this morning, with nine speakers rising in opposition, and written objections received from five others to the proposed establishment of an Urban Renewal Plan that would provide the City of Harris to use Tax Increment Financing to pay for upgrades to their sanitary waste system, as well as improvements to a section of White Avenue, during a Public
Hearing held during the Osceola County Board of Supervisors meeting in Sibley.
At issue is the utilization of TIF funds from a wind farm project in northeastern Osceola County to finance the improvements and upgrades needed by the City of Harris.
Several of those who spoke at this morning’s meeting voiced opposition that County tax revenues would be diverted into a municipality instead of being used to augment the County’s budget.
Dennis Peters spoke on behalf of the Harris-Lake Park School District, and he said the District opposes the resolution under the “Equal Protection Clause”, since the District’s residents who reside in Dickinson County have no representation in this decision. He proposed that the Supervisors eliminate the White Avenue portion of the project from the TIF funding, and require the City of Harris to apply for a USDA loan or grant to help offset the cost of the sanitary waste system.
Harris Mayor Greg Spoethy told the Supervisors that the City of Harris had talked to other communities who said they had encountered problems with their USDA Grants or loans. He said that the engineer with whom the City is working on the project advised them to not go to the USDA, saying that Harris’ project wouldn’t fit the USDA criteria. Spoethy says Harris is already at it’s debt ceiling, which would require them to rely on grants. He said they have applications filed for a Community Development Block Grant, as well as other grants, but that no word has been received on whether they will be approved.
Al Brueggeman chastised the Board of Supervisors for failing to answer any questions about the project. He told the Supervisors that, “if you approve this, I guess we’ll have to see you in court”, before tossing a draft copy of his group’s proposed lawsuit filing onto the table in front of the Supervisors.
Board members assured the gathered crowd that the decision on this issue was not an easy one.
A motion was made and seconded to establish a Resolution to Declare Necessity and Establish an Urban Renewal Area, and approve the Urban Renewal Plan and Project for the Osceola County Urban Renewal Area #7. The measure passed 4-1 on a roll call vote, with Supervisor LeRoy DeBoer casting the lone dissenting vote.