CLINTON — Clinton County has approved and authorized the execution of a development agreement between the county and Clinton Catalyst, LLC.

The proposed development agreement states the developer would agree to initiate operations in the former Ashford University facility and hire employees. The agreement proposes the county will make up to 20 consecutive annual payments of economic development grants to the developer subject to the developer’s operation of the original facility. The grants will not exceed $755,165, or the amount accrued under the formula outlined in the proposed development agreement. One of the obligations of the developer relates to employment retention and/or job creation.

“It’s actually performance based in the idea where the money is actually collected by the county, held by the county and then until the developer is able to prove the number of students, the number of jobs and the amount of investment they promised is actually made then they get that money granted back based on the contingency that there’s another higher level they may achieve the following year,” Clinton County Supervisor Shawn Hamerlinck said. “What this means is if nothing happens we’re not collecting additional taxes on the property anyways. But if something happens that growth then is an increased investment to the city and the county. So the actual loss to the county is nothing because they must perform first before the incentive actually kicks in.”

Supervisor Dan Srp said with the agreement being performance based, it will be directly linked to job creation and the number of students drawn into the Clinton School District. Srp cited the benefits to students in the Clinton and surrounding school districts while also stressing the importance of finding a use for the Ashford University facility.

“We’ve seen other facilities in our area that have been abandoned and neglected and deteriorated and go from being able to produce substantial property taxes to almost nothing at all and be a burden on the taxpayers in other ways and so it’s really a delicate balance to try to walk that line and find a path to what’s best for not only our taxpayers but also to our communities,” Srp said. “Those are some of the different things I take into mind I guess when I’m weighing these options.”

Marion Johnson, a former professor at the facility, which also had been known as Mount St. Clare College, stated she was “very much in favor” of using the Ashford campus. She cited the importance of a good lab for students to use and the need for the facility to be used.

“It’s a beautiful facility and having taught chemistry at Mount St. Clare, a good lab is very important,” Johnson said. “I think this is an important thing for us to do to use the facility before it deteriorates and also I think the influence of having the students come here will be good for the community.”

Clinton resident Marty Ray said while he believes the proposed development “sounds like a good idea,” he does not believe it is the county’s responsibility to bail out the developers if things do not work out for them. He also cited the overrun for the Clinton County Law Center project, saying the $750,000 should be put toward the overrun.

“If we’ve got $750,000 I’d rather put that towards the deficit of the jail which we’ve been scrambling to find out how we’re going to handle that deficit,” Ray said. “I think it would be a lot better use putting it towards our jail, which is badly needed. And I just don’t think our county supervisors should be a piggybank for every good project that comes down the road. They’re all good projects. Everybody that comes up here and asks you for money, they’re all coming from the heart. But sometimes you have to say no. We’ve got to protect the taxpayers of Clinton County.”

Supervisor Tom Determann clarified the money is not coming from the county but is coming from the developer as they pay taxes. He stated the county currently does not have the money.

“We really don’t get this money,” Determann said. “It’s they pay it in their property taxes to develop this. If they don’t develop it we hate to think what would happen to that building. It’s not money we can use for other things. They pay the taxes and we rebate it.”

The Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution approving and authorizing the execution of a development agreement between Clinton County and Clinton Catalyst, LLC.

Meeting Watch

Consent Agenda: Approved 3-0

• Resolution 2018-02: Designation of official newspapers for county publications for 2016.

• Resolution 2018-03: Set reimbursable mileage rate for Clinton County employees for 2016.

• Resolution 2018-04: Authorize the County Auditor to issue checks when the board is not in session.

• Resolution 2018-05: Authorize the County Auditor to make allowed deductions from employee salaries.

• Resolution 2018-06: Authorize the County Engineer to execute certification of completion of work and final acceptance of federal or state aid construction projects.

• Resolution 2018-07: Authorize the Chairman to execute transfer of funds from Secondary Road Farm to Market Fund.

• Resolution 2018-08: Authorize the County Engineer to close County Secondary Roads as necessary.

• Resolution 2018-09: Approved updates to the county building emergency action plan documents.

• Resolution 2018-10: Appointment-Jail.

• Resolution 2018-11: Appointment-General Assistance.

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