Aledo TIF committee wrangles over TIF property

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

The entire Aledo City Council met at 6 p.m. for a TIF committee meeting and held an hour and 15 minute meeting discussing some of the TIF struggles the city council has had over the past several months.

What is the issue?

One issue facing the council is the definition of whether or not three properties within the TIF district are owned by aldermen or not.

Alderman Rich Maynard’s wife was named as property owner on a commercial piece of property owned by both she and Rich Maynard’s brother Rob. The property, where the former Mercer County Banking Center used to be on East Main Street, is currently under renovation after a fire earlier this year and will someday be the new location of Maynard Insurance.

There is also the issue of a trust, which Rich Maynard has signed over to his wife.

Another piece of property is owned by Alderman Robert Rillie’s wife, being used both as a resident and Rillie’s law office on East Main.

The third piece of property is Acting Mayor Dick Hunter’s residence. When Hunter became acting mayor he had the choice of appointing someone else to represent his  ward, or act as an alderman as well.

Because all these properties are within the Tax Increment Financing district, the aldermen cannot technically vote on or discuss any TIF matter, according to the TIF act. That leaves just five alderman able to vote on TIF matters.

This is the reason the three pieces of property are being removed from the TIF district.

Both Rillie and Maynard say they do not feel that the property is theirs and therefore there is no conflict of interest.

Both have in the past, on occasion, voted on TIF projects or issues.

One thing the committee fears is that there will be a run by residents wanting to pull their property out of TIF, if these three properties are removed.

“They have the right to ask for this,” Rillie said.

Maynard pointed to his motives. “All we want to do is represent the community that elected us and vote on these matters.”

“We need to be able to interact and interact freely. I don’t believe there is any case law on this indirect ownership,” Maynard added.

Alderman Terry Bewley said he had been approached by two of his constituents recently voicing that if the council removes these three pieces of property, then they were going to ask to be removed from TIF.

“If you guys think you have a conflict, abstain. If you don’t think you have a conflict then vote,” Bewley said.

Another issue

One of the motives on some taxpayer’s minds is that if their property is removed from TIF, then the increased value of their property will be taxed with that excess going to places like the schools. As it is now, the excess equalized assessed valuation goes back to the TIF district to be used by the city to relieve blight or to help with economic development in the TIF area.

City administrator Janice Green pointed out that one problem with removing the residential property from TIF is the school formula the state uses to pay school districts may actually be helped by property remaining in TIF. She told the council she would look into this for more information before the next council meeting.

The TIF committee reviewed two TIF requests, after much discussion over removing property – a request from the Nations for some TIF funding of up to $102,000 for remodeling of their new Vitale’s restaurant location on College Avenue and a request from Millco, SW 3rd St., LLC, that is asking for around $125,000 to help with remodeling a currently empty commercial property on SW 3rd Street, where there was a hardware store and previous grocery store.

There was some talk about the proposed agreement with Millco that bothered Alderman Rillie. He wanted to know who the principals were. “The last I checked it’s not a legal entity,” said Rillie.

Rillie said that the consultant working for the city looking over these bigger project requests said that Millco would make sufficient enough profit without the city’s help.

Another problem with the contract is the renovation to that building made no mention of the building being tied to Dollar General moving in there.

One alderman pointed out “There’s a restricted covenant, that they can’t go in there.”

For more on this story, see the April 14, 2010 issue of The Times Record.