Watch How They Behave, then Vote
Thanks to all those hundreds of people who wrote in, called, emailed, zoomed, listened on their phones, or attended personally to the 8th of September SJC Council rezoning meeting. Unfortunately, only the pro Sebasty, Kaminski, and Oudhuis family supporters won the rezoning fight; but, hey, the county promised us all good jobs and prosperity, right?
I just hope that St. Joseph County officials keep their promises better this time than they did back in the 80s when IN/Tek was being sold to us. That’s when Chief Deputy Auditor of St Joseph County-John Lentz, stated “The property taxes will be ‘captured’ to pay off the loan – diverted from the schools, township, and the County – by a special law called tax incremental financing. The TIF diversion will continue until the loan is paid off. Only then will local taxpayers – especially Olive Twp. residents – see their own tax rates decrease”. He then went on to say “We have figured that the loan will be paid off in 1997 or 1998. That’s when the people out there will see the big benefit. Calculated roughly, about $57 million will drop into the valuation then” (South Bend Tribune 4/12/1987).
Many of us old timers like me, remember them telling us that very same thing verbally in meetings about the IN/Tek project. I was doubtful, but reluctantly accepted their promises, much to the ire of my father-In-Law who had spent his whole life after WWII working to acquire enough farm land and equipment to make farming profitable.
In a public nine-participant panel discussion in 1989 including John Hunt, Director of Economic Development – the President of IN/Tek John Selky, was quoted as saying “We will be bringing essentially $2 to $3 million of taxes once the TIF is taken care of” (South Bend Tribune 1/02/89). Well, when 1997 came around, SJC changed and enlarged the TIF area so they could keep their slush fund captured.
Then again in 2000 when Pat McMahon Executive Director of Project Future was trying to sell us on TIF for Acadia Bay to develop an electrical energy plant. Dan Schumaker wrote about the meeting and reported McMahon as saying “According to the TIF plan, the company will began paying normal taxes when the bond is retired, and local tax rates will be lowered” (Trails Year Two, Number Twenty One 12/18/2000).
That was then, this is now. I don’t think we should judge the New Carlisle Town Council members too harshly until we know more about what went on during their private Executive Session meetings with County Commissioners. My guess is that they were coerced into a TIF dollar ransom scheme for a new water treatment plant. They were likely told this IEC expansion is happening whether you want it or not. Maybe they were promised big things like we were told in the 80s. Maybe they believed them.
They and we can’t turn back the clock. Now the IEC camel already has his nose under the Olive farmland tent. What we can do is attend local government meetings, ask questions, watch what our Town, County, and Township officials do, then vote at the end of each of their terms.
In the meantime, the 2002 SJC Comprehensive Land-use Plan is going to be rewritten over the next year or so. Pay attention. Don’t let them expand the IEC into a Mega-plex.
Bob Humbarger Olive Township