Erwin board OKs industrial recruiting plan

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 12, 2017 at 12:05 AM

ERWIN - On Monday, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen joined the Unicoi County Commission and the county’s Industrial Development Board in authorizing a tax incentive package for new and expanding industries.

In other business, the board reviewed a very clean town audit of its fiscal year 2016-17, opted for a linear trial construction plan that will close Harris Hollow Road for approximately six weeks, and approved a $25,000 land purchase to keep the linear trail entrance road and parking lot at the Highway 107 railroad overpass open.

The board’s unanimous vote to approve the tax-incentive package was the final hurdle for an industrial recruiting tool that has been more than a year in the making.

Modeled after a payment in lieu of taxes plan used successfully by the city of Johnson City, the Capital Improvement Program was approved earlier in the day Monday by the Unicoi County Industrial Board, which will administer the plan, and by the Unicoi County Commission on Nov. 27.

The plan will allow the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County and others working to recruit new and expanding industry to offer companies a five-year abatement of land taxes on any improvement they make to their property.

In order to qualify, new or existing industries must make a $500,000 investment that will create a minimum of 10 new jobs paying at least 140 percent of minimum wage, or $10.15 per hour.

In his presentation of of the town’s 2016-17 audit, Curtis Morrison, with the accounting firm Rodefer Moss & Co., told the board the “unmodified audit is an clean as you can get.”

The audit summary includes a breakdown of $4.2 million in revenues, $4.8 million in expenditures and an undesignated fund balance that came in approximately $17,000 higher than the previous audit year.

Representatives of Summers-Taylor Construction presented the board two options for the linear trail expansion project, including one that would limit traffic on Harris Hollow Road to one lane from April 10 to July 24, during which traffic backup would also result on two nearby feeder roads and the Interstate 26 ramp at Exit 36.

The second option, which was selected by the board, will close Harris Hollow Road entirely from April 10 to May 15 and save approximately $45,000 in construction costs. Traffic will be rerouted around a mile-and-a-half detour during the road closure.

Andrew Paduch presented the board with a request for the purchase of a linear trail entrance road and parking lot located on property he purchased between Highway 107 and the McDonald’s restaurant.

Paduch told the board he had purchased the property with the intention of developing a $500,000 mini-storage facility and discovered the temporary easement while researching the deed for that purchase.

He said the easement includes a stipulation that it can terminated at any time with six months’ notice from the owner, and while he did not want to close the road, he could not afford the liability of owning it.

Since the purchase, Paduch said the assessed value of the property has doubled, but he is willing to sell it to the town at the same price he paid for it in order to avoid shutting the road.

Town attorney Tom Seeley Jr. noted that Paduch has indicated he would exercise his option to close the road if the town did not buy the property, which could result in litigation and the additional costs related to a legal action.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.