Elkhart mayor to state: 'stay out of our business'


New information shows Elkhart County leading the nation in economic recovery and growth.

At the same time, 75 county businesses have come forward, calling Elkhart's city mayor anti-business.

City council members say businesses are watching closely what happens with the city's new Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, which changes rates for county businesses using city water and sewer services.

"Developers are calling me. Lawyers have sales pending on buildings. [People are asking me,] 'Ron, where's this in committee? When are you going to get it out? We've got a business that wants to move to Elkhart'," said Ron Troyer, president of the Elkhart City Council.

About 75 businesses whose contracts have expired will move from the current rate, which is three times what city businesses pay, to a rate based on assessed value of the property on which their business is located.

"Currently we pay just about $200 a month, and it'll go to $3600 a month, so that's a substantial increase from $2400 annually to over $36,000 annually," Mike Person, vice president of finance at Goshen Coach told NewsCenter 16 after a city council meeting on April 1.

Mayor Dick Moore said the increase pales in comparison to what businesses would have to pay if they were to have to provide their own water and sewer service.

"[Goshen Coach] has had an awfully good deal for the last 15 years, but there are 63 companies that have been paying the rate that he doesn't want to pay for the last 15 years," said Moore. "They didn't hide. They didn't run away. They didn't refuse to locate [just] outside the city of Elkhart."

A state representative is working to add an amendment to a bill before the legislature that would cap fees for commercial customers outside the city at 300 percent.

"[The increase] will hurt businesses dramatically, and it will hurt residents who work at those businesses," said Tim Wesco, R-21. "If [a business's] rental cost is going to go up that dramatically, it's not that difficult to move their business to a nearby city."

The mayor says if Wesco's amendment passes, the legislation would hurt his ability to protect the interests of and provide services to Elkhart city residents, who are the ones who have paid for the city water utility.

"The state needs to stay out of our affairs ... In the last few years, there has been one bill after another that has been anti-municipality," said Moore. "Continue to cripple what these municipalities can do and then watch what happens to economic development in the state of Indiana."

Moore has repeatedly said that he refuses to offer businesses outside the city of Elkhart water and sewer services at what he calls "wholesale rates," while city businesses must pay retail.

"This is a business decision on the part of the city of Elkhart, and it's in the best interest of the people of Elkhart," said Moore. "I don't believe all those places of businesses call all their customers and say, 'What would you like us to charge you?' The city is in the same position."


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