BELLEVILLE — Some aldermen argued Monday against giving $200,000 in tax increment financing to Kroger Co. for a new supermarket, but the finance committee decided to move the business agreement forward.
The full City Council will make the final vote on whether Kroger Co. gets reimbursed up to $200,000 for demolition of the old Bel-Air Bowl.
Kroger Co. would build a Ruler Foods store at 17th Street and North Belt West, create at least 12 full-time equivalent jobs in the first year and stay open for at least five years, according to the project agreement.
Some aldermen on the finance committee said Monday night the city should not give away funds from TIF No. 3, that are not budgeted, to a large, out-of-town corporation.
Kent Randle, a resident running for alderman of Ward 3, said in public participation that he questions how much of the projected sales tax generated by the Ruler Foods will actually derive from sales taken away from existing stores.
Within three miles of the proposed Ruler Foods are several stores, including ALDI, Schnucks, Farmer's Market, Farm Fresh and Shop N Save. What is the impact to these stores, Randle said.
Mayor Mark Eckert said nearby small businesses will be hurt if the old Bel-Air property becomes blighted, so he's pleased because the new business will restore vibrancy to the area.
Eckert said he and his wife are small business owners, too. Eckert Florist supports the new Walmart, though they compete over the sale of flowers, for the greater good of the city, Eckert said.
The city needs to be friendly to new businesses to attract future business, Eckert said.
Ward 4 Alderman Tim Carpenter said he's looking out for the interest of existing small businesses that helped build the city.
"The bottom line is, we don't have to give them $200,000," Carpenter said.
Aldermen asked whether Kroger Co. approached the city, if Kroger is looking elsewhere in the metro-east and how large a part the incentive played in their decision to come to Belleville.
James Gomochak, a consultant representing Kroger Co., said the grocery store approached the city about the property at 17th Street and North Belt West.
Gomochak said Belleville's $200,000 incentive is a big reason why the city is getting the first store in the area. He said Kroger is a big company but its owners still make decisions based on returns of their investments.
Kroger also looked into properties in 10 other metro-east cities and four Missouri cities, and continues to do so for future sites, Gomochak said.
After listening to the discussion, Dan Schwendeman, owner of the Farmer's Market stores on North Belt West and North Illinois Street in Belleville, told the committee he was for the new grocery store.
He said after the meeting he has mixed emotions over the city giving $200,000 to the business.
Schwendeman said he doesn't know how his stores will be affected -- his stores have an emphasis on fresh produce -- but he welcomes the improvements and additional traffic to a property that has been empty for six years.
Last week, the Farmer's Market stores' Facebook page posted a thank you to Ward 4 Alderman Dean Hardt for calling for their input and said it was a first from a City Council member.
Carpenter, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore voted "no."
Ward 2 Alderwoman Dorothy Meyer, Ward 3 Alderman Rob Anderson, Ward 6 Alderman Dave Martinson, Ward 8 Alderman James Musgrove and Eckert voted "yes."
Ward 1 Alderman Michael Heisler voted "present."
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.