December 21, 2005

Triumph plant still not sure thing until city, county, state show them the money.

Despite the vote to approve the Triumph Hog processing plant by the East Moline city council last night, the deal is still not a sure thing.

Amazingly, though sadly not surprisingly, Triumph wants every single government entity involved to dig deep and fork over the big bucks - essentially extracting bribes for them to locate here - either by allowing Triumph to pay no taxes for years, million dollar infrastructure improvements which benefit only Triumph, and "incentive payments", otherwise known as bribes or payoffs, from the state of Illinois.
If certain steps don't fall into place, Triumph Foods LLC still could pull out of its deal with East Moline and build a pork plant somewhere else.

  • The redevelopment agreement between the city and Triumph requires aldermen to approve and create a tax-increment finance district, encompassing the proposed plant site on Barstow Road, on or before Jan. 1, 2007.

    If aldermen don't authorize the creation of a TIF district, the project will not happen, Mayor John Thodos said Tuesday.

    In a TIF district, taxing bodies continue to collect existing tax revenue, but any new revenue created by the development goes into a fund to be used for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.

  • The project also would depend on the proposed site's inclusion in an enterprise zone. Moline, East Moline, Silvis, Milan and Rock Island County -- members of the zone -- each will need to approve including the site in order for developers to receive benefits. Once a site is included in the zone, developers are eligible for sales-tax exemptions on building materials or waived building-permit fees.

  • As mentioned in the redevelopment agreement, Rock Island County would need to commit to paying for widening Barstow Road. While county officials were privy to the agreement, the county board hasn't voted on the road project. [Said to cost at least $750,000. Final cost will most likely be much higher.]

  • The deal also hinges on the state of Illinois offering Triumph an incentive package, though the company's expectations are not outlined in the redevelopment agreement. If the state doesn't offer a package, or one acceptable to Triumph, the project could fall through, Mayor Thodos said.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is talking with Triumph, department spokesman Andrew Ross said Tuesday. Generally speaking, the state could offer financial incentives to any company for job training, infrastructure improvements and corporate income tax breaks, he said.
Another article in the Dispatch/Argus is titled "Aldermen: Research changed our minds details E.Moline aldermen's rationales for approving the plant. Not mentioned was how they have no idea, really, how much this is going to cost them, the school district, the county, or state. Apparently, that wasn't too big of a concern and wasn't part of their supposed "research".

One notable quote from Ald. Luis Moreno in the piece shows that he's no rube. He demands proof before making such serious decisions: (emphasis mine)
Last month, Ald. Luis Moreno, 3rd Ward, said he was against meat-processing plants in general, based on his experience as a former IBP employee recruiter and East Moline police officer. He said Tuesday he was worried Triumph would recruit workers from out of the area. But Triumph officials erased that worry, he said, by saying they expected to hire people from the Quad-Cities area.
If that's not rock solid, I don't know what is.

Hiring imported illegal and legal immigrants from the southwest and other regions to fill most of the plant's oh-so-wonderful jobs, which after all, are pointed to by all proponents as their primary reason for approving the deal, is most certainly a serious concern. And Ald. Moreno was correct and should be commended for wanting some rock solid assurances that this would not be the case. After all, Moreno should know how these companies operate, seeing as he was actually in a position which recruited workers for IBP.

And what assurance did he get? The company told him they "expected" to hire local people, and that was good enough for Moreno. (Like Triumph CEO Hoffman saying he "doesn't foresee" Triumph using anaerobic lagoons to store and treat waste -- another common source of packing-plant odor.)

It's good to know we have such no-nonsense representatives looking out for our welfare who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of things and ensure we get a good deal in exchange for the multiple millions of dollars we're giving to this corporation.

Ugh!

Approve the plant. That's a valid opinion if you think the benefits outweigh the negatives. But there's precious little evidence that those responsible for making this momentous decision were even interested in doing some serious homework on the issues involved, and did so only superficially much too late in the game and only after opposition became known and they wanted to at least give the appearance of not blindly rubber stamping the project.

A couple alderman didn't even bother trying to pretend they'd done any research whatsoever, and are apparently untroubled by approving the project in near total ignorance, not knowing much of anything about the project other than it's a business and it hires people.

It's a wonder these politicians don't get motion sickness from rolling over so quickly.

9 Comments:

At 12/21/2005 9:09 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

Dope, I have to ask how many of the Alderman have you spoken to on this issue? How many of the questions you pose her have you asked them? Obviously the QC Times and the Dispatch are not asking them, since they are not included in the articles. As a newsman running this blog, it is also your responsibility to ask these probing questions. Knowing your enthusiasm and passion on this and many other issues, I am going to assume that you did contact some of them and weren't satisfied with the answers, but I wanted to know what exactly convinced you that they did not care about doing their homework.

City government officials are some of the most accessible politicians around, and I believe most of them visited the site, talked with neighbors, and took questions over the phone, as well as attending several of the public information meetings that have taken place over the past two months. It is not appropriate to characterize the point of view of the alderman based only on what the newspapers editorially decided to include in the final article.

 
At 12/22/2005 12:34 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

high,

I must disabuse you of a dangerous notion that you apparently have.

Your write: "As a newsman running this blog, it is also your responsibility to ask these probing questions."

As they said in an old western movie, "Hold on there, Newt!"

Where have I ever said or suggested that I'm a "newsman"?

I can tell you that I'm most assuredly not. I'll leave that to those who get paid to gather the news. I don't.

I'd also encourage you to not make the mistake, (though I'm flabbergasted that anyone would) of confusing opinion with hard news.

If I had spoken with aldermen and been able to ask them about their depth of knowledge concerning the intricacies of all the state, county, and local obligations and exactly all the ramifications from such actions, I would have stated that plainly.

You can (and do) fairly fault me for stating my opinion that these aldermen did not have a thorough understanding of this very large issue when the voted to approve it.

Perhaps they knew all there was to know about all conceivable effects, both now and into the future, that approving this would bring.

But my hunch is that they didn't. Just one tip off is that they didn't expound about it to reporters when they were given the opportunity.

If they indeed were very knowledgable about all the many aspects of this issue, you'd think they'd want to demonstrate it.

Instead we have what was reported in the article, which admittedly doesn't mean that's the entirety of their knowledge, but is a pretty good indicator, in my opinion.

Two alderman simply told the reporter that they had their minds made up long ago. How much information was even available at that time?

One could also argue, as I would, that due to the speed at which this entire issue was presented and then approved, it would be impossible to be truly fully informed at this point.

I accept your valid point though. No, I didn't ask exactly what each alderman knew. But I feel safe in assuming that they were considerably short of being completely informed about all the numerous aspects of the situation, complete with government obligations, the ramifications of those, what environmental impact will this plant have and what promises or agreements will they enter into in this regard, or did they not agree to anything other than vague assurances? If the project proves to indeed bring negative impact to the community, what is in place to correct it? What is the company's obligation at that point? Or did no one think to ask?

The list could go on and on and on. I feel pretty confident that the alderman let this go through without getting any of these things nailed down, as witnessed by Ald. Moreno settling for a company official telling him they "expected" to hire locals.

I would have hoped my point was more obvious. I guess it wasn't.

And again, I don't know where you got the idea I was a "newsman".

I do strive to be accurate and factual, and if the line between fact and opinion got too blurry in this post, I accept your blame.

 
At 12/22/2005 8:38 AM, Anonymous puzzler said...

Does anyone else remember reading in a previous article that East Moline intends to create a 350 acre TIF - not just the hog plant, but the entire area on both sides of I5? If they're so sure that the plant is going to entice other development than why do they need a TIF that large? And why take this future tax money away from the school district, the county, etc. If they're so sure that commercial or other development is going to follow the plant, why do they need TIF incentives?

 
At 12/22/2005 12:17 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

Sorry about the confusion, Dope. I should have been clearer with my comments. When I said "newsman" I didn't mean to imply that you were in fact a journalist. What I was trying to get at though, was that as a blogger, you are presenting news, editorially selected to address stories that you find interesting, and then passing that information, along with your opinion, to your readers, and inviting comments in return. In that sense, whether it is your intention or not, you have become a "quasi-newsman" at the least. :-)

Also Dope, I'm not trying to place any blame on you. I had honestly thought that you may have talked to some of the players in this, because I wasn't able to go as far as you with only the information from the news article you posted.

I'm sure the city council made this decision without perfect information. There is no guarantee that this plant is not going to cause significant problems, but it is also not guaranteed that it will. Just a quick aside along these lines. At the meeting, several citizens expressed concern over groundwater contamination and other safety concerns. These people also refused to accept the explanation from Maclure engineering that groundwater contamination is highly, highly unlikely to occur since the plan design for one does not include any underground structures, which raises the likliehood of contamination. Concerns were also raised about possible increased flooding, but refused to accept that the flood study conducted by the city and concurred with by the DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that there will not be any loss of wetlands, nor any increased flooding as a result of development of this site. These citizens refused to accept any of this information, but at the same time many were quoting information from FARM and PETA as if it were itself gospel truth.

I have no quarrell with either PETA or FARm, because I know they are out for the best interests of communities. At the same time, they are as self-interested at the business community, and anything either side says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Not sure what my point is exactly, but I think it amounts to there being absolute truth somewhere in the middle, and that may be where the council stood, and what they based their "yes" votes on.

 
At 12/22/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

Another point I need to make is that the school district and other taxing bodies are not necessarily going to be losing large amounts of money, as some other seem to think.

You have to way the difference between the incremental difference in tax revenue that the school district, etc. won't get, against the money those bodie DEFINITELY won't get if the site is never developed. There is going to be an assesed value of 2.7 million dollars for that property, if I remeber right from the meeting. That is an assessed property value of 2.7 million dollars to be taxed by every gov't body for the next twenty years.

While it's true that those bodies will not be able to collect larger amounts if the property values within the TIF rise, it still may be better than not having that influx of cash in the first place, and guaranteed over the course of twenty years.

The problem I do have with the TIF disctrict is the developer rebates. I worry that too much of the money goes back to the developer, rather than to infrastructure and other community investment. That is something citizens need to be vigilant on and I assume TIF district revenue allocation must be voted on by the local government in charge of it, so there can be oversight if voters and citizens pay attention.

 
At 12/22/2005 1:16 PM, Blogger tiz said...

Does anyone know what happened to the rail project that they started a few years back near the EM/Silvis border and then scrapped? I was hoping the hog project would possibly help spur that back to life. Didn't EM throw some money at that project too?

I don't see the need for the huge TIF either.

 
At 12/22/2005 1:50 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Dave Requet was the developer behind RailTech and he seemed to drop away after all the "free" money did not appear from the communities....

Quite a few of our developers are only as good as the amount of tax $ they can get "granted" to them in various shapes and forms.....

 
At 12/22/2005 5:10 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

I had heard recently that the difficulty with any rail project in Silvis is getting the tracks reclassified. Right now they are a class two, and for the kind of development they're looing for, it needs to be a class 1, and it has something to do with the grading and the curving. I don't know anything more than that, but that was the basics provided to me by a Silvis alderman I met recently.

 
At 12/29/2005 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just have Joe Mooreno stand up in front of them and tell em to get fixed or re-direct the trains like he did at the marathon. That will work well...NOT

 

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