The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 10, 2014

Big decisions loom for Lincolnway Railpark

By Brenden West
Assistant Editor

CLINTON — Much of the new term for Clinton City Council members has been spent debating and learning about the Lincolnway Industrial Rail and Air Park Urban Renewal Plan. On Tuesday, city leaders will decide if they approve what the plan specifies.

Three action items will greatly affect the future of the park, which contains hundreds of acres deemed to attract railway businesses in an economic development zone. During the city’s regular meeting at 7 p.m., the council will first hold a public hearing concerning the Urban Renewal Plan before adopting or denying the plan.

If the city approves the plan, it will then consider an ordinance stating interest and principal of funding mechanisms pertaining to property taxes levied by Clinton, Clinton County and the Camanche School District will be paid to a special fund. The ordinance pertains to development agreements with businesses already within the area -Nevada Railroad Materials and RAIL.ONE. This approval would mean the city could collect on those agreements in order to fund infrastructural upgrades necessary for developing the park, among other objectives.

The Urban Renewal Plan has stirred controversy during past meetings. On Jan. 14 (the new council’s first organized meeting), several council members questioned the $53.6 million price tag associated with the Lincolnway developments. City Administrator Jessica Kinser has since clarified that Iowa state code now mandates cities must specify a not-to-exceed figure in order to offer TIF within an urban renewal district.

That eight-digit sum does not bind Clinton to any costs, she said.

“There’s no binding authority that we have to complete the projects,” Kinser said during the Jan. 28 meeting. “If you intend to exceed that dollar amount listed, you cannot do that. That dollar amount is the cap.”

Members of the Clinton Regional Development Corp. and the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce have since indicated their support for the plan. CRDC owns 212 acres of property within the park. Establishing a plan to offer TIF serves the aim of the economic development enterprise to create jobs.

“Jobs equal people,” Kinser said. “People who are hopefully going to be local taxpayers, and they equal new spending as well. So this is one of the reasons we do this. There’s a multiplier effect when a new job is created.”

City leaders will discuss several other ongoing topics during the Committee of the Whole meeting, including:

- An update from Kinser on the search to fill the current City Attorney vacancy. Kinser has spent the last two weeks between Clinton’s last regular meeting drafting a legal services request for proposal. On Jan. 28, after Kinser presented the council with research on other cities, council members indicated they would rather contract with law firms than hire a full-time replacement for former city attorney Jeff Farwell.

- A discussion on the city’s current gender balance policy. Committee appointments by Mayor Mark Vulich received scrutiny Jan. 14 when questions arose as to whether the city was performing its due diligence to provide an equal male-female ratio on its advisory committees. The issue again came up during the city’s Rules and Regulations Committee meeting in January.

Kinser said the city strives to follow Iowa Code on its gender balance policy. When there is an imbalance among applicants, the code permits cities to fill their committees as necessary.

The Committee of the Whole will immediately follow the city’s 7 p.m. regular meeting.