Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 9, 2002

Winsted council angry with county's handling of tax abatement issue

By Julie Yurek

The announcement of McLeod County's denial for the City of Winsted's request for tax abatement was not what the City of Winsted wanted to hear.

Council members were angered and disappointed about the announcment.

The news was surprising, because the city was not informed prior to the county's meeting that the issue was on the agenda.

City Administrator Brent Mareck first heard the news when he received a telephone call from the Hutchinson Leader Wednesday morning, he said. They asked him what his reaction was to the news, he said.

"I replied that I didn't even know they were voting on it," Mareck said.

"I said they'd have to call back because I didn't have enough information," Mareck said.

"I am disappointed because we've worked on this for almost a year and they made a decision without even notifying us," he said.

"I think the city should send a letter to the county commissioners asking why the city was treated so shoddily after working on this project for a year and wasn't even invited to the meeting, much less finding out about it from the press," said Council Member Bonnie Quast.

"It's just rude," Mayor Don Guggemos said.

"It's very rude" Quast agreed.

"Is there no way we can ask them to bring this before the board again and give us a chance to be there?" Quast asked.

"Is there no legal way to get this back to the county?" Quast asked.

"You can always request anything, just like here (at council)," said City Attorney Frank Eggert.

Guggemos suggested getting the three cities that supported tax abatement ­ Hutchinson, Glencoe, and Winsted ­ to sign a letter together.

"The county should not be involved with whether it's a good idea or not, the city should be making the decision whether it's a good idea or not. The county can make a decision whether they want to participate," Guggemos said.

"It's inexcusable the way they treated this whole thing," Quast said. "I think we should demand a hearing. We deserve to be heard."

The city does a lot for the county, Guggemos said. "We plow some county roads and never ask to get paid. It was a 'we scratch your back, you scratch ours' situation."

"Well, from now on, we keep track of costs and send them a bill," Guggemos said.

"I'm going to ask Tony (Kielkucki) to change the rules on TIF districts," Guggemos added, in reference to the city's inability to assist the Waste Management location through TIF funding because of a restriction on the square footage per building. This forced the city to look at tax abatement to spur development.

"To have it by square footage makes no sense whatsoever," he said.

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