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L’burg May Look Past Lawsuit To Drive Current, Future Economic Development

Posted On August 10, 2017

By Mike Perleberg

File photo.

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Developers who owe the City of Lawrenceburg millions of dollars are proposing a deal which could allow the city to recoup the money and create new jobs.

Proximo Distillers is in need of additional warehouse space for its bottling operation. Linkmeyer Development officials told Lawrenceburg City Council they have a solution at partially-excavated property the company owns at Waterview Commerce Park on Florence Drive.

“What we’re proposing is taking dirt off the site, and moving it down to the 17-acre site that sits behind the Kroger right now,” Brian Bischoff with Linkmeyer Development told city council during a special work session on Monday, August 7.

A new 500,000 square foot warehouse for Proximo would be constructed at the commerce park located near Walmart. In addition to creating 21 high-paying union jobs, the facility would generate about $350,000 per year in property tax revenue, Bischoff claimed.

Proximo would give a 15-year commitment to the city.

“We’re in seven warehouses right now today, with over a million cases. That’s a fact,” said John Montgomery, general manager at Proximo. “We’re paying it (tax) everyday. It makes a lot more sense to me to pay it here and consolidate all the business and control it than it is to put it in seven warehouses.”

Montgomery added that some employees who have been moved to out-of-state warehouses could be brought back to Indiana.

Linkmeyer Development would move the dirt from Waterview up U.S. 50 to another 17-acre tract the company owns on Tanners Creek Drive behind Kroger. About 480,000 cubic yards of earth would be needed to raise it out of the flood plain, according to Bischoff.

The city is being asked to finance the dirt-moving operation with $6.7 million paid to Linkmeyer Development. Bischoff said the relocation would be charged at a below-market rate, which he pegged at a cost of $3 per cubic yard, or a savings to the city of about $1.44 million.

The company would then give the city the option to acquire the 17 acres of newly-filled land for $1. Bischoff said the property could be worth about $2 million, the high value due in part to the potential for a new port being established on the Ohio River.

“I argue that it’s some of the most valuable piece of real-estate in southeast Indiana… …I would reckon to say that that piece of land is probably somewhere right in the middle of all the port activity and all the opportunities that will be created from both an economic development standpoint and tax base,” Bischoff said.

Linkmeyer Development, owned by partners Steve Linkmeyer and Bischoff, owes the city approximately $3 million for a 2009 loan agreement to develop the 103-acre Florence Drive property. The matter has been in litigation since the city filed lawsuits to recoup the money last year.

Bischoff acknowledged that this plan, if accepted by council, could satisfy the city’s loss. He said the property tax revenue created by the new warehouse would add up to $3.2 million in a little over nine years, not to mention the additional tax revenue from the new shovel-ready tract on Tanners Creek Drive. The cost of moving the dirt would also count toward satisfying the unpaid loan.

“What we’re trying to do is just create a win-win for all the parties involved and resolve all the differences we’ve had in the past and that are ongoing,” said Bischoff.

City council is taking time to consider the proposal, but wants accurate numbers on the dirt relocation first.

“I don’t think either party needs to go into this with any mysteries. I don’t want to harp on it, but we need to know the numbers,” said councilman Paul Seymour Jr.

Mayor Kelly Mollaun agreed an estimate would be nice, but that Linkmeyer Development should be allowed to fill the Tanners Creek property completely instead of stopping at a predetermined amount of dirt.

“We want the project to be shovel ready, no matter how many yards it takes,” Mollaun said.

Councilman Mel Davis said the city needs land to develop, and this would provide 34 acres. Aaron Cook pointed out that not every cent of every property tax dollar goes to the city, as it is divided among several other government entities.  Seymour indicated that the city should move past the foreclosure of Linkmeyer and do what’s best for the city.

“It’s not going to go away. There’s no way an ordinary man can pay back $3 million if he ain’t working and doing this kind of work,” Seymour said.

On behalf of Proximo, Montgomery asked for the city to move quickly. He estimated 18 months to two years before the warehouse would be ready.

Lawrenceburg City Council has set a special meeting to vote on the proposal on Monday, August 14 at 4:00 p.m.