Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort issued a letter to the Amsterdam Common Council and Mayor on Wednesday urging them to move forward with a proposal made by Mayor Ann Thane on Monday to provide approximately $500,000 in funding to construct sewer and water main lines to the future site of Concordia Senior Communities. Under the proposal, the city would borrow the money to construct the lines and set up a special district which would charge an additional tax on the property to offset the loan payments. Once constructed, the city would also reap both Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) revenue and water and sewer fees.
Alderman Ron Barone and Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler both expressed opposition to the deal due to concerns about the city’s finances. Referring to the fact that Concordia had chosen to work with the county development agency rather than the city’s, Hatzenbuhler said, “Let them deal with it, financially we can’t afford to deal with it right now.” Referring to Ken Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, Barone said, “Why can’t Ken come up with the money?” At one point, Barone indicated he was willing to walk away from the deal. However at the end of the meeting, Barone said “If it’s done right, I have no problem with it.”
The letter from Ossenfort did not name any individuals, but urged city leaders to stop “squabbling” and work together. Excerpts from the letter include:
An economic development project of this magnitude must be embraced with enthusiasm and nurtured through collaboration to project completion…
We all need to be mindful that what happens in the City of Amsterdam, good and bad, reflects on all of Montgomery County…
Developers are constantly exploring new markets and additional opportunities and take notice of the attitudes of particular communities when deciding to invest their capital…
This $30 million project is the largest private sector investment and job creating initiative in the City of Amsterdam in years. This project is designed to provide 162 units of senior housing, create 116 permanent jobs, more than 200 construction jobs and increase the real property tax base…
I am urging you to make every effort possible to end these ongoing disagreements, help this project get off the ground in a timely manner and send a message that the City of Amsterdam is truly prepared to move forward. The future of our entire county will no doubt be brighter if you do.
Read the full text of the letter here.
On Thursday, Ken Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center commented on why he thought is was important for the city to participate in the project. He pointed out the successful investments the county made in the past in building infrastructure used by Target, Hill & Marke’s, Beech Nut, Daim Logistics and LS Veneer in both the Florida and Glen industrial parks.
Rose said, “The county invested in the development of the parks with the understanding that it would take some public investment in order to leverage private investment.”
“We felt that the City of Amsterdam would understand the basic concept and what it takes in order to bring a private sector project to fruition. Additionally, as we worked with [Concordia] through our industrial development agency on the project, we felt what a great opportunity to bring the city in and have them take part in this project with the investment in off site water and sewer that would be needed.”
“I thought by including the city in some way in one of the largest private sector investment and job creating projects they’ve seen in years that it would send a strong message to other developers that the city is moving forward and will partner with developers and businesses looking into invest in the city,” said Rose.
Rose said he still hopes to partner with the city, but is preparing an alternate loan for the project in case the city decides not to invest.