MINOT — The Ward County Commissioners rejected the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the remodeling of the Midwest Federal Big M building on Tuesday with a vote of three against and two for it.
Commissioner John Fjedahl explained why he voted it down, “One of the questions I have is, the county was not a part of the negotiation process, and it’s my understanding that century code allows to ask for that. I’m not going to support this until we’ve been part of that process.”
Fjedahl also asked about who would be responsible if the project does not get completed in the 20-year TIF plan.
“It would be backed by us as developers, in the development agreement with the city,” replied Blake Nybakken, with EPIC Companies. “So it would be backed by personal guarantees. There will be a minimum assessed value, so even if the project for whatever reason doesn’t assess at the value that we’re projecting, in the agreement we’ll have the ability to have a minimum assessed value to ensure that those bond payments get paid.”
Commissioner John Pietsch said he would probably never support a TIF.
“I think one of the greatest responsibilities as a county commissioner is to be equitable, honest, and fair to all the residents and taxpayers of the county,” said Pietsch. “My goal is to make sure that hard working taxpayers aren’t paying more for their fair share of taxes because someone decided to provide tax relief to an entity that needed it less than the average taxpayer did. [The TIF] creates an unfair playing field for others in the same businesses.”
Pietsch added that he believes EPIC can receive other investments and continue with the renovation without a TIF from the city or county.
Commissioner Howard Anderson expressed his reason for the no vote, because he said he believes the whole process was rushed.
Commissioner Chairperson Jim Rostad, on the other side, responded that he trusts the city manager and believes the city has done its due diligence.
“It may not be a perfect solution, but it is a solution to get this back on the tax rolls eventually and get a building that’s been on the blighted issue for some time,” said Rostad.
Commissioner Shelly Weppler described a reason for her yes vote was because of the asbestosis removal from the building that would be the first part of the project.
“You could have a building in better standing than it is right now,” said Weppler. She also added, “My understanding is that the TIF money will be repaid back at the rate that the taxes in the end will be, and that approximately $35,000 is coming back to the taxing entities. So we’re ahead of where we’re at already, just from the get go. But should that building come back, it’s certainly in a better position not to be demolished.”