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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Tax abatement task force praised

April 6, 2001

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A new task force on Lawrence's tax abatement policy drew praise in late February from both sides of the issue.

Mayor Jim Henry, who had been promising the task force for months, announced the committee at the Feb. 20 Lawrence City Commission meeting.

"I have attempted to have this group be comprised of individuals who represent many different viewpoints, a group that is broadly representative of Lawrence and Douglas County," Henry said.

Opponents and proponents of tax abatement use said Henry accomplished that.

"It looks pretty good to me," said Larry Kipp, who will represent Friends of Douglas County on the task force. "We've got neighborhood people, we've got business people ... we've got a recipient of a tax abatement."

"I think it fairly represents those interests and the population of Lawrence," Commissioner Erv Hodges said.

Keith Folkmann is director of plant operations for Sauer-Danfoss, which received an abatement in 1998. He is a member of the task force.

Folkmann said he hoped the task force would reach a "consensus that would allow us to approach opportunities on common ground for a quick and efficient outcome."

Henry originally proposed the task force in May, after Lawrence city commissioners agreed to a controversial slate of tax incentives to lure American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

That company later chose to build its new distribution center in Ottawa.

He reiterated the promise in January, after commissioners approved incentives for DST Systems Inc. to move into the building vacated by Sallie Mae at 2000 Bluffs Drive.

At the Feb. 20 meeting, Henry said he had a deluge of volunteers for the task force.

"There were so many we really had to narrow the (list)," he said.

Henry said he expects a different abatement policy to come out of the task force.

The first meeting was in early March.

"In all likelihood, there will be significant changes required," he said. "I fully expect that this task force will approach this challenge thoughtfully and objectively. It will ask some tough questions, and it will provide some answers."

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