CivicPlus plan again on agenda

By Burk Krohe

For the second time in three weeks, city commissioners will consider an economic development package for CivicPlus. At their regular Tuesday meeting, they will also consider a design contract for a new general aviation apron at Manhattan Regional Airport.

Expansion of the children’s library at the Manhattan Public Library will also be discussed. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m.

CivicPlus, a firm that designs, develops and builds websites for local municipalities, is projecting 40 percent growth in 2012, and Ward Morgan, CEO of CivicPlus, said the firm needs to expand its workforce. In turn, it needs to expand its offices to accommodate the growth.

The key piece to this growth would be a multi-story 50,000 square-foot office building at the corner of Fourth and Pierre streets. The first floor of the building is envisioned to be retail and restaurant space, while the remaining floors will be high-end CivicPlus offices.

The economic development incentives would go toward the new office building and would include a $750,000 forgivable loan, an option to issue up to $20 million in industrial revenue bonds (IRBs) and a 10-year tax abatement worth $2.24 million across all taxing jurisdictions (the city’s portion being $726,061). Essentially, the tax abatement brings the incentives package up to $1.4 million.

During the Commission’s first consideration, commissioners were concerned about the implications of the tax abatement. Commissioner Wynn Butler was particularly concerned about ensuring all the taxing jurisdictions would remain whole and not lose any of the existing tax base due to the abatement.

The city made several clarifications and revisions to address those concerns.

The economic development agreement states that no property will be eligible for tax abatement until the appraised value of that property exceeds the appraised value from 2013, the base year before the initial agreement begins.

Furthermore, if the property meets that standard, the city will limit the property tax exemption to “property used exclusively by the corporation for the corporate business, and it shall not apply to portions of land, buildings or equipment used for any other purposes.” Additionally, CivicPlus has agreed to revised language stating that the first floor of any new structure will not be eligible for tax abatement, even if the company alters its plans and uses the entire building for corporate business. 

Commissioners will also consider a design contract with Mead and Hunt, Inc. for a general aviation apron. This comes after the Commission’s review of the airport’s Terminal Area Master Plan, which identified facility requirements based on the airport’s current and projected needs.

The document highlighted the need to move the fixed base operations (FBO), or a commercial business granted the right to operate at the airport, from its current location adjacent to the terminal to a new location on the east side of the airport. It also identified future conflicts between general aviation operations and commercial aviation operations.

In order for the FBO to function properly, it must be located with the new general aviation apron. The airport doesn’t have an exact location for the new FBO building yet, but Peter Van Kuren, airport director, has stressed that the two projects go hand-in-hand.

The project will construct about 100,000 square feet of apron and a taxiway connector. It will also include, stormwater drainage, pavement design, an under drain system for draining subsurface water from the apron, edge lighting, circuitry, airfield signs and other miscellaneous items. 

The design cost for the improvements is about $199,980, and construction costs are estimated at $1.8 million. Both design and construction of the apron are eligible for 90 percent funding under the FAA Airport Improvement Grant Program. The city expects a grant offer from FAA either late 2012 or 2013.

The Manhattan Public Library Board of Trustees will also discuss its plans to expand the Children’s Library and to seek support from commissioners to debt finance the project. The library has planned an expansion since 2009 to accommodate ongoing growth of children’s programming. The estimated cost of the project is $2.125 million.

The city owns the building, so the city and library would need to enter into a cooperative agreement for financing, design, bidding and construction should the project advance. The library cannot issue debt, so it is asking the city to act as a “financing conduit.”

Commissioners would need to issue temporary notes to finance the construction and general obligation bonds for long-term financing. However, the library says it would raise one-third of the project cost through a capital campaign.

The issue is a discussion item, therefore commissioners will only provide feedback.

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