Janesville66.5°

Edgerton might use payout to revitalize downtown

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Stacy Vogel
February 14, 2009
— Edgerton's mayor hopes a large repayment to the city will help launch a program the city has been discussing for years.

Mayor Erik Thompson wants to use a portion of a potential $467,000 payout to participate in the Main Street Program, a state program to revitalize downtowns.


The city could get the money by paying itself back for a 1995 land purchase.


Edgerton paid $300,000 for 100 acres of land north of town to form the Edgerton Business Park. Later, the park and the surrounding area were turned into a tax incremental financing district.


In a TIF district, a community spends money on infrastructure improvements and land deals to attract businesses. It recoups its investments through property taxes collected from the new businesses. All taxes from the new development go into the TIF fund—instead of going to school districts, counties and other government entities—for the life of the TIF district.


The north-side TIF district, known as TIF 5, is taking in more revenue than its expenses. At the end of 2007, it had a surplus of $578,000, Administrator Ramona Flanigan said. (The city hasn't completed a 2008 audit.)


The city council could use the surplus to pay itself back for part or all of the land investment plus interest, totaling up to $467,000, Flanigan said.


Thompson would like the city to set aside part of the money for economic development. He will ask the council Monday to allow him to appoint a chairperson for an economic development committee that could apply to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce's Main Street Program.


The program helps communities develop downtowns while keeping their historic character.


"We looked at it in the past, didn't have the money to do it, and we're kind of blessed with this money here," Thompson said.


He won't ask for a specific amount yet because he doesn't know how much the program will cost, he said.


The state requires cities to commit to an annual budget of at least $70,000 for the program, which could include donations and other funding sources, said Tony Hozeny with the Department of Commerce.


The city discussed applying for the Main Street Program in the late 1990s but didn't have the tools to carry it out, Flanigan said. It now has a master plan, TIF districts and a redevelopment authority that could help enact the program, she said.


Thompson also has proposed using the money for an emergency savings account and to make city buildings more energy efficient.


The council also could use some of the money to replace or repair its aging City Hall. A committee is examining options to build a new hall or renovate a downtown building.


Thompson said he's not advocating setting the money aside for City Hall because the city hasn't decided what it wants to do in that case.


The city has plenty of time to decide if and how to spend the money, he said.


"We're not in a hurry to release funds," he said. "They are collecting interest right now."



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