CHARLESTON -- A Charleston hotel will receive tax increment financing assistance to dress up the property.
Mississippi County Commissioners gave their approval for the TIF project following a presentation given during their regular meeting Thursday by Bill Green of Corporate Real Estate Solutions, a consultant for the city.
TIF programs reimburse developers for improvements by using a portion of the increased sales and property tax revenue created by the developments.
Green said hotel and motel TIFs are a "special challenge" as they require the project to be specifically authorized by taxing entities.
This particular project will "provide extensive exterior improvements to the Econolodge hotel," according to Green.
This project is particularly important to the city of Charleston, Green said, as it is a first-impression or "front door issue" for the city. "That's one of the first things people see when they enter town," he said. Additionally, customers of the business are likely to spend money elsewhere in Charleston during their stay, he added.
Green said the hotel was previously owned by the Warren family who operated the business as the Charleston Inn before selling it to the current owners, the Patel brothers, nearly three years ago.
"They are looking for ways to improve their visibility," Green said.
The project will receive $150,000 in TIF subsidies which is about one-third of the cost of the entire project, according to Green. He said it will take about 11 years for the reimbursements to be paid in full.
Improvements are to include a stucco exterior for the building, repaving the parking lot and other exterior enhancements.
"They've already spent a bunch of money," Green said, as the new owners have completely refurnished the hotel and put in new carpeting.
He also noted the Patels own other Charleston hotels.
In other business Thursday:
* Commissioners will not mow portions of Ditch 14 and Ditch 23 located within Charleston twice per year in exchange for $1,500 from the city.
"We're not going to let another entity dictate to us when to mow," said Jim Blumenberg, presiding county commissioner.
"We don't mow Ditch 14 twice a year," Commissioner Homer Oliver said. Oliver also said care must be taken when spraying herbicides on ditches as it can kill tomato plants grown by residents near the ditch.
Blumenberg offered to reverse the deal and pay the city $1,500 per year to maintain the ditches.
Commissioners did agree during the discussion with Charleston City Manager David Brewer that there is a problem with a culvert holding water.
Commissioner Martin Lucas also advised Brewer the county intends to cut down some trees along one of the ditch banks.
In related news, officials at the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission at Malden will assist the county in pursuing funding assistance for a project which would put a concrete bottom in a portion of Ditch 14 located within the city.
The county previously applied for a Community Development Block Grant to fund the project but was not approved.
Oliver said paving the ditch bottom will stabilize the ditch banks and make the ditch "a whole lot more presentable." He also noted "a concrete bottom would be very, very easy to clean out."
Steve Duke, executive director of the BRPC, advised the project probably does not meet the criteria for an economic development grant.
Duke advised it could qualify for CDBG funding as a street drainage project and should be able to meet the low-to-medium income requirement but said there is a lot of competition for these grants.
Connie Duke, also of the BRPC, said funding from the Delta Regional Authority may be a possibility.
Lucas said in regards to funding assistance, the county should "pursue any and all opportunities."
* "We've got a dog problem in the county," Blumenberg said. "I get calls all the time about vicious dogs on the loose."
He said a worker for the county's rural water district was recently bitten by a loose dog.
Blumenberg said if the dogs can not be caught, they should be shot.
Lucas agreed with Blumenberg's statement that stray dogs can be addressed by the county's ordinance power as it relates to the health and welfare of the county. Lucas said he thinks other counties already have ordinances pertaining to animals in effect.
"Four or five dogs (running loose) with nobody taking care of them is a bad deal," Oliver agreed.
* Commissioners will direct the county clerk to arrange a meeting with State Tax Commission officials to discuss a dispute the county's geographic information system vendor has with the county assessor.
The decision was made following a review of a letter from the vendor detailing the vendor's side of the dispute.
* Sheriff Keith Moore has agreed to accept applications and issue permits for licensed drivers to operate ATVs on county roads, Blumenberg said.
Moore said he will distribute copies of the state statute pertaining to the lawful use of ATVs on county roads along with permits.