July 18, 2012Crawford County officials may be close to agreeing to a deal that would bring a medical facility, income-based senior housing and a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing building to just north of Interstate 64 at Leavenworth.
Vop Osili, who is heading a group of investors, presented the approximately $13 million project to a joint meeting of the county's board of commissioners and council Tuesday, July 10, at the judicial complex in English.
"On the property that we're going to look at here, you all have done an amazing job getting it 'shovel ready'," he said.
Vop Osili, shown above during his presentation to Crawford County officials, is heading a group of investors who want to build a medical clinic, income-based senior housing and a manufacturing building north of Interstate 64 at Leavenworth. Photo by Chris Adams
The 41-acre tract, south of Jasper Engines and Transmissions along S.R. 66, has water, sewer and fiber-optic and wireless Internet. Being designated as a shovel ready site speeds up the permitting process, making it attractive to potential developers as few sites across the state have the designation.
"Our objective is to build everything, if you all let us, and we're not asking for any money," Osili said.
He said his group will be responsible for funding the project. The only things he is requesting of the county is for the 41 acres and a percentage of the property tax revenue the development generates, which would not go to the county's general fund since the land is in the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, to be used as collateral to help his group get a lower interest rate on a loan.
Property taxes generated in the TIF district must be used for improvements within the district. The tax revenue generated in a particular year would be held back just for that year as collateral and released back to the county the following year.
"Is there something that would be a show-stopper percentage?" Councilman Steve Bartels asked.
"We don't need to have it," Osili said. "It's just to make it easier for us, so we can get a better rate. So, there's no show-stopper."
Bill Sears, a consultant working with Osili, said the county would have several options regarding the land. It could sell the 41 acres to Osili's group outright, have the group sign an option to purchase requiring various criteria to be met before the sale is final, or simply lease the property, he explained.
"You have control of that," Sears said.
"You can bind me up pretty tight," Osili joked.
The project would address two key areas county officials have been working on for some time. An economic development committee, including Bartels, District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore and others, has been looking into securing a flex, or shell, building at the industrial park because more and more companies are wanting facilities that they can modify quickly to begin operation.
"I have very strong confidence we could fill that building if we have one there," Don DuBois, the county's economic development director, said, noting more than 90 percent of potential leads first ask if existing building space is available.
County officials listened to a presentation from a firm earlier this year proposing to build such a facility, but several balked as the project would have required the county to pledge a portion of its Economic Development Income Tax revenues to pay the interest on the construction loan.
The other key component to the project is the medical facility. County officials, including District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius, have worked to bring an urgent care facility to the county.
Osili said the facility already has a rural health practitioner lined up, and Harrison County Hospital is interested in being involved, although the details still must be worked out.
Councilman William Breeding said that, while he is in favor of it, he wondered whether the development's third component was appropriate.
"Does the housing belong in the middle of this industrial park?" he asked.
Osili said the county has an aging population and he believes the planned 40 units, available to persons 55 or older, "could be leased up quickly," providing bodies on the site, which would include a lake, giving the project more life. He added the medical facility and senior housing are a natural fit, and the manufacturing facility would be located on the far east side of the property, away from them.
Sears, who has been working with DuBois for years to find a good fit for the county, added that the state wants to see more comprehensive projects — those that include health, housing and recreation — in rural areas, "and this addresses that perfectly."
The project potentially would call for a second 40 units to be constructed later as well as, if an outside entity, such as a YMCA, became interested, an onsite recreational facility, Osili said.
He said the first step, however, would be construction of the manufacturing building, which could begin within 90 days after an agreement is reached with the county. Osili added that, if an agreement is reached in time, his group plans on applying for tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to construct the senior housing units. Those credits could be awarded by the end of February, which would allow the units to be constructed by October 2013, he said. The tax credits aren't necessary but are a good incentive and would make the project go smoother, he said.
Depending on if an agreement can be reached with Harrison County Hospital, the medical facility also could be open by fall 2013, Osili said. He added that the rural health practitioner is interested either way, but said the application process to set up a rural health clinic takes several months.
"There is no other obligation on the county," he said of the project. "I'm eager to do it. I'm excited to do it."
Osili, who is a member of the Indiana City-County Council and a past candidate for secretary of state, said he understands the concerns his Crawford County peers may have and encouraged them to have their legal representatives review the project so they become as comfortable with it as he is.
"If we're going to invest it," he said of his group, "it means we believe it's going to be successful."
The council, following a motion from Breeding that was seconded by Bartels, voted 6-0 (member Doug McLain was absent) to further review the project.
The commissioners will again look at the project at their regular meeting on Thursday, July 26, at 9:30 a.m. at the judicial complex.