GCC approves fire ordinance and project plan #2 for TIF District

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Two public hearings were heard at the Greenbrier County Commission meeting last Tuesday.

The first was for a proposed fire ordinance that will affect the first-due areas of the county by replacing and updating a 2004 ordinance, bringing the county’s policy in line with those of the state. According to Lewisburg Fire Chief Joseph Thomas, the ordinance will allow the department to set the maximum rate at $1,500 per call-out, with the exception of those calls for HAZMAT and rescues. The previous maximum was set at $500. Although this is the maximum rate, the final bill is set by individual departments and can vary, Thomas said.

The second public hearing dealt with the county commission’s approval of a new project plan called Project Plan #2, adopted on Mar. 12, 2019 in a resolution for the Greenbrier County TIF District #1 (White Sulphur Springs), and the financing of the project improvements with the issuance of tax increment revenue bonds.

Bond consultant John Stump, with Steptoe & Johnson of Charleston, said, “Basically, this is the second of three steps taken for the project.” The first step was the commission’s approval of the project plans, the second is to extend the life of the TIF for an additional 10 years, and the third step will reduce some of the projects from the plan, primarily those on Kate’s Mountain, including a ski resort project. Stump said, with the commission’s approval, the plans will go for submission to the West Virginia Development Office and then back to the commission to be enacted.

Commissioner Lowell Rose said the funds accrued from the TIF dating back to 2004, if still active, will be included in the current project plans, which include: WSS water line replacement; WSS water treatment improvements and line extensions; Lewisburg water back up sources; Caldwell sanitary/storm water issues, including a drainage project to Howard’s Creek and waste water processing; enhancement to sewer lines and a water line to a laundry facility at the Sporting Club; water line enhancement to the industrial development area at Harts Run; storm water concerns at Church Street in WSS; and a study of an old railroad bridge. The total cost of the White Sulphur Springs’ six primary projects is estimated to run at around $12.25 million. To accomplish everything on its wish list, the city would issue $15 million in bonds, which would be repaid with TIF revenue.

The TIF is a method of subsidizing infrastructure, economic, and community improvement projects within the TIF district. The funds for TIF are collected by the selling of bonds, which are repaid by the state and county governments giving up a portion of increases to their collected taxes from an expanding tax base. Originally enacted in 2004, the original time line for a TIF lasts for 20 years, or until the bonds are paid off.

The White Sulphur TIF District encompasses The Greenbrier Sporting Club, a second-home residential community with a private equity, members-only club developed on the grounds of The Greenbrier. This unique development, in conjunction with The Greenbrier, has benefited the county through direct increases in employment opportunities, in both construction and permanent jobs, and encouraging new business ventures. While the Sporting Club will not be a direct beneficiary of the anticipated tax increment financings, it serves as the primary economic engine within the District.

“I think this is a great plan for the future of White Sulphur Springs,” said Mayor Bruce Bowling. “It’s another little push in the right direction. Everybody in the area will benefit.”

In other business:

  • The commissioners agreed to allocate $350,000 to the Arts & Rec Committee as the total funding available to grant applicants in the 2019/2020 grant cycle. The date for applicants to state their project requests to the county commission will be on May 9 at 5 p.m. at the courthouse.

• The Humane Society’s agreement with the commission for the upkeep and maintenance of the Animal Shelter was approved in a 2-1 split vote at $200,000, the same sum the Society presents each year; with Commissioner Mike McClung opposing.