CHARLESTON -- Charleston is gearing up to participate in the Missouri Department of Economic Development's Enhanced Enterprise Zone program.
"We are putting one of those together here," confirmed Bill Green of Corporate Real Estate Solutions, a consultant for the city of Charleston, during the regular Mississippi County Commission meeting Thursday.
David Brewer, Charleston's city manager, said it was apparent when they first began looking into the DED's Enhanced Enterprise Zones program that in competing to recruit industry, "if we don't do it, we're out in the cold."
The program allows cities to offer state tax credits as incentives to bring in industries, Green explained. Tax credit recipients can use or sell their tax credits.
City officials are identifying areas within Charleston that qualify and are in the process of putting together a seven-member board which will include representatives from each of the taxing entities, he said.
Commissioners appointed County Clerk Junior DeLay to represent the county.
The board should be formed and begin meeting sometime in February, Green said.
"The board will consider, essentially, four topics," Green said: the zone's boundaries; which industries to target with the incentives; the amount of tax abatement for a business; and the length of time that a percentage of the tax on improvements will be abated.
Statutes require the tax abatements on real estate property to be at least 50 percent and to last for at least 10 years, according to Green.
It is the City Council's prerogative to decide how much of an incentive to offer industries, Green said. While the board will make recommendations, "the Council is the one that will adopt the policy."
If a company is proposing coming in and creating several hundred jobs, that company will likely be given bigger incentives than a smaller industry that would bring in 10 jobs, Green said.
Green said he will recommend the board meets with county commissioners as soon as it is formed.
"Do you all have interest or are you just trying to stimulate interest?" Commissioner Homer Oliver asked.
Brewer indicated that there is a recruitment project in the works but did not elaborate.
In other business Thursday:
* Commissioners approved contracting with the Missouri Association of Counties for their prepaid legal services program.
"From time to time we have situations arise when we need immediate legal services," DeLay said. These situations are usually related to personnel issues.
The cost is based on the county's assessed value. Mississippi County's cost will be $1,200 per year for which the county will receive up to 10 hours of legal counsel per month from Ivan Schraeder, the Missouri Association of Counties' attorney.
"He is an accomplished attorney and a lot of times he can give you a snap answer," DeLay said. "He's been the Missouri Association of Counties' attorney for a number of years."
Mississippi County officials have sought Schraeder's advice in the past - usually in regards to personnel issues which the county's prosecutors typically have to research, DeLay said.
* Back-to-school shoppers in Mississippi County will get their sales tax holiday this year.
"We just won't opt out," Blumenberg said. "It's not going to hurt us."
DeLay said the state legislature last year decided to extend the sales tax holiday, a three-day period during which taxes are not collected on a list of school-related items. "I think they made it permanent," he said. The sales tax holiday is held in August before the school session begins.
DeLay said the "opt out" option is still open for those counties that prefer not to participate. "The law does allow counties to opt out, which the county has every year," he said.
* The county assessor's assessment maintenance plan was approved by commissioners.
"Every two years, the assessor needs to have an approved assessment maintenance plan. It includes a financial plan but it's not binding," DeLay said. "He works with the state tax commission in developing that plan. It's pretty much standard."
Generally only budget and personnel numbers differ, he said.
* Blumenberg said commissioners need to decide on lettering for the county's emergency mobile communications trailer.
"We'll run it in the parade every year, let people know we are ready," he said.