Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2013, 11:25 pm

EM tentatively approves tax abatement for BHC student housing

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By Anthony Watt,

East Moline aldermen, at Tuesday night's committee-of-the-whole meeting, tentatively approved a tax abatement that could help bring student housing to Black Hawk College.

BHC is planning a 114-bed, three-story student apartment complex. Initially sited on BHC property in Moline west of BHC Building 3, the proposed apartments were moved to land adjacent to the school's Parking Lot No. 4 after Moline officials declined to offer the tax rebate sought by the building's developer, Bluffstone LLC.

If it receives final approval in East Moline, the abatement will be over 10 years with no property tax being paid the first six years and incremental increases during the next four until the abatement expires, according to a report at the meeting.

The vote was unanimous on Tuesday night, with Ald. Helen Heiland, 1st Ward, not present.

The project still faces several other steps. The BHC Board of Trustees must approve the new site and the land must be transferred from BHC to its foundation. State law prohibits a community college from owning or operating student housing, so the foundation must contract with Bluffstone.

Bluffstone has said it needs the rebate for the project or the housing would be too costly for students, according to BHC President Thomas Baynum. There's no alternative to compensate for the tax rebate if it's not offered.

During Tuesday's East Moline council meeting, Tim Baldwin, of Bluffstone, said the city would get no revenue during the first six years of the abatement but is expected to get about $90,000 in tax revenue during the last four years. He said the apartments could generate as much as $2 million in revenue for the city during the life of Bluffstone's contract with Black Hawk's foundation.

The committee of the whole also tentatively approved measures designed to streamline the mechanisms for paying wages and merit pay to exempt employees, including department heads.The existing system is large and complicated, with no rules governing how it is applied to employees, according to a report at the meeting.

There were two separate votes -- one for the overall policy and one for the rules governing raises for department heads. The pay policy passed 4-3, with Alds. Jeff Stulir, 3rd Ward; Ed DeJaynes, 4th Ward; and Dave Kelley, 5th Ward, voting against it. Mayor John Thodos voted for the measure in place of Ald. Heiland, breaking a 3-3 tie.

The vote for the raise policy was unanimous.

Aldermen also approved increasing the admission tax for the Rock Island County Speedway from 10 cents to 25 cents per paying patron. The tax will be reviewed every two years.It also applies to the Quad City Downs, city administrator Cole O'Donnell said.

The measure passed 4-2, with Alds. DeJaynes and Gary Westbrook, 7th Ward, voting against.

All of the action still must be presented at a council meeting, with the next one scheduled for March 4.

Acting as city council, the aldermen approved hiring a firefighter who will compensate for changes in the duties of several fire personnel. The changes will leave a gap in one of the shifts that could lead to overtime, according to a report to the aldermen.

At a previous meeting, East Moline Fire Chief Rob DeFrance said the hire would cost the city about $58,000, including salary and benefits.

The 4-2 vote had opposition from Alds. Kelley and Gary Almblade, 2nd Ward.