Council jumps through enterprise zone hoop, hears about 12th St. solution

The Lebanon City Council approved a resolution to allow a business to move and expand in Albany and receive a property tax abatement as part of the South Santiam Enterprise Zone during its regular meeting Wednesday.

Each member of the Enterprise Zone, Lebanon, Albany and Millersburg, must approve these requests before a company can take advantage of the tax benefits.

Griffin Bros. Inc., a chemical manufacturer, is planning a $1.5 million investment, purchase and upgrade of a building in Albany, according to John Pascone, president of the Albany-Millersburg Economic Development Corporation.

The company will relocate nine employees and add one additional employee, paying more than 150 percent of Linn County’s average annual wage, which qualifies it for complete five-year property tax exemption. According to the agreement, the average wage is $40,962, and 150 percent is $61,443.

Several years ago, Millersburg and Albany joined Lebanon’s Enterprise Zone, said City Manager Gary Marks, which means Lebanon must approve applications for property in Albany and Millersburg.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution. Present were Rebecca Grizzle, Jason Bolen, Mayor Paul Aziz, Bob Elliott and Robert Furlow. Absent were Wayne Rieskamp and Floyd Fisher.

During the city manager’s report, Marks told the council that the Enterprise Zone will expire June 30, but the city seeks a renewal.

“That is staff’s intent,” Marks  said, “however staff wants to have a staff report prepared and bring it to you at the next meeting to discuss some of the issues. Probably the main issue we want to think about is the membership of the zone.

“Back in the day when Albany and Millersburg were brought into our zone, it was done so because, at the time, the state rules only allowed a finite number of zone designations throughout the state. So they could not go get their own designation.”

Since then, the rules have changed, Marks said. “All you need to do now is demonstrate to the state that you meet whatever the criteria it is to have a zone designation. At this point, to me, I have to wonder, if we renew, if continuing this idea where we have to approve each other’s applications really makes sense. One way or the other, renewal needs to be sought, whether we’re doing it with Millersburg or if we’re doing it on our own and they’re seeking their own.”

Albany’s population has grown past a threshold where it automatically has a zone designation, Marks said.

Pascone has contacted the city and asked if Lebanon would like a presentation, Marks said. “That may be appropriate, but I think first of all, I’d like to internally have our discussion about what we would like to do. I’ll tell you,  I don’t think it makes sense to go forward with the zone the way it is now. Tonight, maybe we wouldn’t have had to meet because that was really the only action item you had.

“It’s not a slight to anybody. It’s just what’s in the best interest of everybody and what’s practical as we go forward. Is it necessary that we need to be joined at the hip and have to approve each other’s applications? Not a big deal.”

Aziz said in the past five years, Lebanon has had one, Dave Smith Decoys.

Grizzle said it’s been good for Lebanon, for Entek and Pennington Seed.

“I would just have us through that process be good neighbors as well and make sure that us dumping them if we do doesn’t leave them high and dry,” Grizzle said. “Is it difficult to form a new one for them?”

Aziz differed about whether AMEDC has been a good neighbor.

“Just recently, they pretty much dumped on us on the transload (transmodal reloading) facility,” Aziz said. “They’ve completely supported Millersburg and not even given us the chance to say Lebanon’s an option. They’ve just specifically said the Millersburg site is the site that they’re backing. If they’re for us, then I would think they would support both of the facilities. Same thing with the Linn County Commissioners. I would think they would support both of the facilities because it’s in Linn County.”

“I disagree” Grizzle said. “I think like in the case of the Veterans Home, Albany really wanted that, and the Linn County Commissioners just deemed that Lebanon was the superior site. That didn’t mean they didn’t like Albany. It just meant they evaluated the property. They evaluated everything. They decided Lebanon is what we’re going to back.”

AMEDC can similarly say, “‘We believe this is a superior piece of property,’” Grizzle said. “‘This  is the property we’re going to back.’ I don’t take that as a slight to Lebanon, and I would be worried that this move would look like we were retaliating.”

The subject will be on the agenda for  the council’s next regular meeting, 6 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the Santiam Travel Station, 750 3rd St.

In other business, the council:

  • Re-appointed Kim Ullfers to the Budget Committee. Ullfers has served on the committee since 2012. The new term expires on June 30, 2020.
  • Approved a utility easement for a newly constructed water main extension as part of the Aspen Place Apartments project located along South Second St.
  • Were introduced to Matt Apken, the city’s new finance director, who began work in December.
  • Toured the Lebanon Jail as part of an annual requirement by the state.
  • Heard that the city may have a solution to an ongoing issue on 12th Street, where different neighbors are inside and outside the city limits.

Furlow brought up the issue at the council’s regular meeting in December, Marks said. He asked that staff find a solution, and as of Wednesday, a solution had developed to the point Marks could report it to the council.

“The most common issue we’ve had is when we have city residents who live on the city side of the line have issues with people in the unincorporated island and we depend on the county to do something,” Marks said. “I don’t know that the county really recognizes that’s something they need to address. It’s been difficult getting issues addressed.”

Furlow said last month that the problem on 12th Street had been going on for 10 to 12 years with issues around long semi-trucks parking in the area, noise from refrigerator trucks running overnight, trash, homeless, drugs and  human waste.

“The people indicate they’ve  made numerous requests for assistance, and it always seems to end up never landing on a clear doorstep as to who can help resolve it,” Furlow said.

The idea is to request the county give Lebanon that section of the roadway, Marks said. “Any complaints we would receive occurring in that right of way, we could then act on based on our nuisance laws.”

That process is going forward, he said. The county is willing to dedicate the street to Lebanon.