Incentives approved for C & S project

C & S Products Co. Inc. will build a new warehouse at its location at the north end of town with a little help from the city.

Fort Dodge City Council members agreed that help should be given, because of the project’s economic value- but how exactly to provide the help was cause for debate.

Councilman Don Wilson wanted to use tax increment financing to help with the building. Instead, the council voted 4-2 to extend an earlier agreement with the company, which would allow it to avoid some regulatory costs.

Wilson and Dean Hill voted no, and Andy Fritz, Dave Flattery, Mark Taylor and Robert “Barney” Patterson voted yes, with Kim Alstott abstaining.

C & S is located at the north end of town along 15th Street, and was annexed into the city about three years ago.

At that time, the city signed a three-year agreement that exempted the company from some city regulations during that time and provided TIF to help with certain projects, said Mayor Matt Bemrich.

“We could use TIF to offset some of the costs they will incur because of regulations placed on them after annexation. Or we could amend the existing agreement, and extend it for a one-year period, allowing them to still be exempt from those regulations, like they were when they were in the county prior to annexation,” Bemrich said. “That is neutral to the taxpayers, and they would still pay taxes.”

Wilson said under city building code, the new warehouse would need a fire sprinkler system. But under the county rules, the system would not be necessary.

“Our building inspector said this needs to have a sprinkler system to meet our code. Our fire chief has said the same thing. They have taken the product that’s going to be put in this building, and it is flammable,” he said.

“This greatly undermines the authority of our city employees,” Hill said.

Wilson worried that the council would set a precedent for other companies wanting to get around city code.

Bemrich disagreed. He said the council should look at each company individually.

Bemrich said if the building had been built last year, they would have done it this way because they were within the original agreement.

“If they wouldn’t have annexed in, I’m sure we would still be trying to help them because they are a good local employer and they would be building this building without any of those local codes,” he said. “I don’t feel we are undermining any city official, we are simply extending a period of time that was agreeable to all of us at this table and our city staff three years ago.”

Tim O’Tool, C & S vice president, said safety was their first priority, but the sprinkler system isn’t needed for this kind of building.

He said the building is considered a Class 2 food products warehouse according to the FDA. He said he’d visited with the insurance company, which agreed the sprinklers were not necessary. Adding sprinklers would not decrease the insurance premium, either.