In a move that could possibly bring millions of dollars to Franklin County, Fiscal Court has voted to cut the occupational tax rate in half for new employees at a local distillery as part of a tax incentive program.
Beam Inc. announced in 2009 a $28 million expansion that would add 120 jobs at its distillery on Georgetown Road. At the same time, The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $6.3 million in incentives and tax credits for Beam to expand.
With Fiscal Court’s approval Tuesday, employees hired as part of that expansion will pay an occupational tax rate of 0.5 percent, half of the current rate of 1 percent, for 10 years.
County Treasurer Susan Laurenson and Judge-Executive Ted Collins encouraged the court to accept the incentives. Laurenson called Jim Beam a “great corporate citizen” of Franklin County and Collins said the distillery’s investment is “helpful” to the community.
They also said the county’s participation is necessary in order for the distillery to receive the maximum amount of incentives through the state.
But magistrate Jill Robinson raised concerns about giving handouts.
“Ten years is a long time – they’re going to come back again and want the same thing,” Robinson said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“… We’ll never know if they would have (expanded) anyway, if we just keep giving stuff away.”
Collins countered that the distillery, with locations throughout Kentucky, could have expanded somewhere else and not bring jobs to Franklin County. Some members of the court said they weren’t willing to take that chance.
“… I think all of us understand where you’re coming from, but I’ve heard (Laurenson) say they’re about to invest $28 million back into the county … so in my opinion, I think we’re going to win that way, too,” Magistrate Huston Wells said to Robinson.
Wells asked Kim Smith, interim director of the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation, who’s been working with Beam on developing the incentives, to keep track of the program. She said the state has a monitoring system for its incentives programs that will make sure Beam stays on target with its hiring and wages.
Beam has said the new jobs could bring wages and benefits totaling up to $30 per hour.
“If we’re willing to do something for them, we want to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Wells said.
It’s unclear when the expansion will be complete and the new employees will be hired. Construction was set to begin late last year, but Laurenson said Beam officials told her it may not be complete for another two years.
IN OTHER ACTION TUESDAY:
>County Attorney Rick Sparks received approval to sue two companies that are delinquent on county taxes and loans.
Laurenson and Sparks said Milestone Hospitality Management, which owns Days Inn off U.S. 127 South, is behind a quarter on its transient room taxes, which goes toward financing the Save The Grand Theatre organization. The company owes about $3,100.
Sparks will also sue RJ Industries, which owes about $6,600 for equipment it leased from the county. RJ Industries agreed to reimburse the county for the purchase of 5-ton overhead crane the county bought in 2004, but Sparks and Laurenson said RJ Industries hasn’t made a payment since 2009.
>The court voted 5-1 to reaffirm the 1969 request to change the name of Knights Bridge on Peaks Mill Road to Quarles Bridge. The 1969 Fiscal Court voted to rename the bridge in honor of former magistrate Arch Quarles Jr. at a December 1969 meeting, but for reasons unknown, the bridge remained Knights Bridge. With the vote Tuesday, a plaque will be put on the bridge, displaying its new name.
Some members of the court raised concerns that the switch would confuse residents, saying despite the 1969 action, people have always known it as Knights Bridge. Magistrate Larry Perkins suggested adding to the plaque, “a.k.a. Knights Bridge.” Magistrate Phillip Kring voted “no” to the name change.
“As long as I can remember, it’s been Knights Bridge,” Kring said. “I have no problem with there being a Quarles Bridge in Franklin County, but I don’t want it to be Knights Bridge.”
>The court authorized the Franklin County Road Department to make drainage repairs in the Heritage subdivision off Cardwell Lane to address stormwater issues. Road Superintendent Randy Thompson identified several lots in the area where water pools after heavy rainfall and there is no drainage outlet.
City and county officials met last month to address stormwater problems in Frankfort and Franklin County. Robinson said Tuesday the Heritage issue is an example of the extra work the road department has to put in to fix stormwater issues.
Currently, there is no department in local government designated to deal with stormwater issues, and officials discussed eventually creating a stormwater utility system or department to address the billions of gallons of extra water going into the city and county sewer systems from stormwater each year.
“As we continue to talk about stormwater issues, we need to be able to tell the public these are the types of projects we face,” Robinson said.
>The court had a lengthy discussion on “orphan roads,” or roads that aren’t in the county road system. The court said several of the county’s subdivisions have orphan roads – roads that for some reason, the subdivision’s developer didn’t complete – that the county legally can’t maintain, plow or repair because they’re not in the system.
Orphan roads can be “adopted,” Sparks said, but they have to fit several standards first, like be a certain grade or length. However, many of the county’s orphan roads don’t fit these standards, Sparks said, so the court asked him, along with County Planning Director Robert Hewitt, to research other options to see how the roads could be brought into the county system.
>City Commissioner Sellus Wilder challenged the court before its meeting to a canoe race next month that will pit city and county government officials against one another.
“The Fiscal Court is proud of themselves for conducting meetings more quickly than we do,” Wilder said, as the court laughed and clapped. “We look forward to seeing whether the squires can paddle any faster than they can govern. The gauntlet has been thrown!”
Fiscal Court meetings typically last about one to two hours, while City Commission meetings have sometimes gone on for as long as five hours.
The race will be held alongside Canoe Kentucky’s annual Paddlefest event at River View Park Sept. 8. Each team can have up to four members and can include government officials, law enforcement or other city and county representatives.