Belleville

Belleville approves $1.2M in TIF money for Auffenberg renovation

Belleville gives $1.2 million to Auffenberg Ford

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert discusses why he supports the plan to give $1.2 million in TIF money to Auffenberg Ford, which will spend $2 million to renovate its building and vows to stay in business for 15 years.
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Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert discusses why he supports the plan to give $1.2 million in TIF money to Auffenberg Ford, which will spend $2 million to renovate its building and vows to stay in business for 15 years.

Belleville aldermen on Monday voted 12-3 to give $1.2 million in TIF money to Auffenberg Ford, which will in turn spend at least $2 million on renovations on the dealership on South Illinois Street, produce $24 million annually in revenue that is subject to sales tax and stay in business for 15 years.

Jamie Auffenberg, president of the Auffenberg Dealer Group of Illinois, has said the actual construction cost could be higher than original estimates.

Most of the revenue produced at the dealership is from car sales and the city receives 1 percent of the sales tax when a car is sold. If the dealership makes its goal of $24 million in sales, then the city would get $240,000 in sales tax revenue.

The plan was supported by Joe Hazel and Ken Kinsella of Ward 1; Johnnie Anthony and Raffi Ovian of Ward 4; Shelly Schaefer and Ed Dintelman of Ward 5; Andy Gaa and Mary Stiehl of Ward 6; Phil Elmore and Dennis Weygandt of Ward 7; and Roger Barfield and Roger Wigginton of Ward 8.

The cost of this request is out of bounds.

Kent Randle, Ward 3 alderman

Mike Buettner of Ward 2 and Kent Randle and Scott Tyler of Ward 3 opposed the Auffenberg development agreement. Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa was absent.

“Auffenberg has been here over 60 years,” said Mayor Mark Eckert, who supported the agreement with Auffenberg. “There’s not been any direct threats but I think the reality is if we can’t strike a deal, we could lose Auffenberg and I don’t think the city of Belleville can afford to lose a car dealership. We’re down to the last three.”

Cardinal Buick GMC and Oliver C. Joseph Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram are other two new car dealerships in Belleville, and they are located on Illinois 15.

The renovation is estimated to cost $1.5 million, but the president of the Auffenberg Dealer Group of Illinois, said the actual construction cost could be higher.

Eckert said Belleville once had a dozen new car dealerships and in 1999, the city approved over $2 million TIF money for Auffenberg in an effort to keep the Ford dealer in town.

The aldermen who opposed the Auffenberg plan were upset with the level of the city’s commitment.

Belleville will give Auffenberg 60 percent of the renovation cost. Earlier this month, aldermen were told that the city would cover 80 percent of the cost but the amount was reduced to 60 percent when Auffenberg vowed to spend $2 million on the renovations instead of $1.5 million.

Auffenberg has a track record of running very successful businesses.

Roger Wigginton, Ward 8 alderman

“The cost of this request is out of bounds,” Randle said. “Putting 60 percent of the burden on taxpayers is ridiculous. We need to stop thinking of TIF as an entitlement for the private sector.”

Elmore said the 60 percent threshold was more palatable than the 80 percent level and he voted for the plan.

Wigginton said Auffenberg will be increasing the number of jobs at the dealership and increasing their inventory.

“Auffenberg has a track record of running very successful businesses,” Wigginton said. “They’re not going to want to sit at $24 million. That brings us all the more sales tax revenue.”

The Finance Committee and the Economic Development & Annexation Committee earlier this month recommended the full City Council approve the Auffenberg development agreement.

Belleville officials are considering a proposal to give $1.2 million in TIF money to Auffenberg Ford if the dealership spends $1.5 million to renovate the building.

In other business

▪  The council unanimously decided to make what’s called the “crime-free” housing ordinance permanent.

The ordinance, which is designed to prevent and reduce crime in rental housing, was approved in 2013 with a four-year sunset clause.

Last week, the city’s Crime-Free Housing Committee recommended the city keep the ordinance for four more years but the City Council instead voted to make the ordinance permanent.

The ordinance requires landlords to take steps to evict tenants charged with crimes, mandates that landlords take the city’s crime-free housing training program and it calls for landlords to complete ciminal background checks on tenants.

▪  Aldermen approved the site plan for the 24-hour Walmart Supercenter planned for the intersection of South 74th Street and Illinois 15. An engineer contracted by Walmart has said the store might open in 2019.

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