Two tax breaks for the General Electric Company were granted unanimously by the Van Buren Township Board at its Oct. 19 meeting.
GE is leasing several buildings from Visteon at the former Visteon Village, now called Grace Lake Corporate Center. A $20 million total investment at the site is reported.
The Oct. 19 action included public hearings on a personal property tax exemption under PA 328 and an industrial facilities exemption certificate under PA 198.
The personal property tax exemption on $1,161.081 worth of new equipment for Building E (45 W. Main St.) would mean $750.13 less tax per year for VBT for 12 years, a total of some $9,000. The new equipment would result in at least 12 new jobs.
The project will develop new metals for aircraft engines and the new equipment will include off-the-shelf equipment such as ovens, furnaces, measuring machines, with one piece being engineered, and everything to be delivered by Dec. 31.
What is developed will be sent to a plant GE is trying to buy at Haggerty/ Ecorse Road for testing and manufacture.
“We will develop a full-scale manufacturing system that doesn’t exist today,” said Douglas J. Dinon of GE Global Research.
He said when it’s complete, the whole cell will be lifted out and sent out to its new location.
Trustee Jahr asked if the specifice buildings being used by GE are still exempt from taxes through Visteon, which still owns the property. Visteon was in bankruptcy and the township wasn’t allowed to pursue them for funds.
Susan Ireland said she has written to the township’s bankruptcy attorney to ask if the township now can revoke Visteon’s tax exemption, since they have exited bankruptcy.
“Visteon is not playing straight with us,” Trustee Jahr said, adding that he had nothing against GE.
The PA 328 exemption is new for VBT which didn’t qualify for it previously, but does now because of changes at the state level.
“The state says hurry up and do it for GE,” said Ireland. “I don’t think $750 is worth saying ‘go away, GE,’” she said.
Trustee Phil Hart commented, “They wouldn’t go away.”
Trustee Hart said Visteon didn’t add the employees it promised and, “I thought we had all the t’s crossed with Visteon and I was wrong…”
Supervisor Paul White pointed out the tax exemption is for GE not Visteon and VBT provided a $30 million bond for Visteon.
“In no way are we helping to finance this project. GE is,” said Dan Swallow, director of planning and economic development.
The second tax break approved for GE is for an industrial tax exemption of 50% for 12 years, which will provide 125 new jobs by December.
This project is in part of Building F (40 Main St.) and Building D (50 Main St.) and involves $848,519 in new equipment — personal property – mostly software for use by engineers.
This tax break would cost VBT $463.82 per year in uncollected taxes.
Dinon, from GE, told the board that GE is having 20 to 25 new employees starting each Monday and there have been 430 employees hired so far for the facility.
Dinon said his time with GE Global Research is split between VBT and upstate New York. With him was Sandra Johnson of Fort Meyers, Florida, of the GE Tax Department.
This is Phase 2 of GE’s requests for PA 198 exemptions, with the VBT board granting the first exemption at its July 6 meeting. More exemptions will be requested as GE moves forward with its phases.
In other business at the Oct. 19 meeting, the board:
* Approved hiring Thomas MacDonald as DPW Superintendent, at
a salary of $56,000. This position has been budgeted for but vacant since November 2008. MacDonald was the former DPW Director in Wayne and retired, only to be called back to work part time to help the city. He has 32 years of experience in the field. VBT DPW Director Todd Knepper said he knows McDonald from past professional contacts and he is highly competent and will be an excellent addition to the township team;
* Approved the Supervisor’s reappointments of Environmental
Commission members with terms to expire Oct. 1, 2013: David Brownlee, Tony Gibson and Norm DeBuck;
* Removed from the agenda a letter from four elected officials asking for action on a 2008 letter of understanding on take-home cars for police officers;
* Removed from the agenda the proposed ratification of the AFSCME Local 236 union contract from Oct. 7, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2011 because the paperwork needs correction of typos and other changes. Clerk Wright said a special meeting could be called to consider ratification once the document is in the correct form;
* Approved Swallow’s request for extending the moratorium on submission or receipt of applications for medical marihuana-related activities for another 90 days. Swallow said he needs the extra time to gather information and prepare documents;
* Heard from Bruce Ross that a Warm Coat drive is under way and people are asked to bring coats to drop boxes through Nov. 6 for inclusion in Goodfellow baskets for local people;
* Heard John Delaney say he wanted to talk for an additional three minutes under Non-Agenda Items because he had another topic, different from the animal control situation he addressed earlier. Supervisor White said there is no provision for more time when a subject is changed and Delaney said Clerk Leon Wright told him there was in a private conversation in the hallway, which he taped. He also said he had taped Supervisor White in a previous private conversation. Pam Ruff supported Delaney’s statement about Wright, saying she heard it, too; and
* Heard Clerk Wright say he really felt bad about the death of Michelle Korotney’s dog Buddy, who was killed by a pit bull that was released back to the owners by somebody in animal control or the police department. He asked that people not bring up personnel issues at open meetings, referring to complaints about Animal Control Officer Bob Queener. “I know the issues and I know what’s being addressed,” Wright said. “Give the director [McClanahan] a chance to resolve the issue. You keep bringing forth new issues. Allow us to do the job you elected us to do.”
At the Oct. 18 workshop session, Trustee Denise Partridge introduced a proposal to set up a Cultural Commission for the township, saying it would help the township qualify for grants.
Parks & Recreation Director Bruce Ross said he did some research and found there are a lot of grants available for groups with cooperative efforts.
Supervisor White said VBT will never become a premier community until it gets a number of cultural activities for the residents.
Treasurer Sharry Budd was resistant to the idea, asking how it would be financed and insisting such a commission would be “stepping on everybody’s toes,” including the library, museum, and arts council.
White said the township will begin getting yearly payments of $375,000 from EQ in late 2011 or 2012. He said some of it should be used to benefit the township’s culture.
“We owe that to our residents,” he said.
White said possibly not the whole $375,000 would be used on cultural activities, and some could be set aside for capital improvements.
“I think it’s appropriate for this board to do this,” White said, adding other arts groups could bring requests to the commission for grants.
“I think the groups we have are enough,” Budd persisted. “I’ve talked to them and they’d be here” to protest.
“There’s no intent to step on anyone’s toes,” White said.
“It’s just the opposite of stepping on anyone’s toes,” said Trustee Partridge. “It will bring people together.”
Trustee Hart pointed out there are a lot of different personalities on the different groups in the community and, “We don’t want to lose them.”
Hart said there’s a small population of volunteers and they’re getting worn out. “We don’t want to irritate them.
Trustee Jahr said he certainly supports cultural activities, but he thinks forming the committee before the money is available is putting the cart before the horse.
“I think we should have it in place and ready to go when that money comes in,” White responded, noting that part of the funds have already been designated for certain activities.