City Council Endorses Expansion of Local Business

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Published on October 17 2012 12:33 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

A local success story is getting an endorsement from the Effingham City Council as the company plans to grow again.

The Council agreed to vote at its next meeting for a $75,000 grant for Versatech, which is planning to relocate for the second time in its four years of existence and add employees in the process.

Versatech President Joe Forbes explained that the company produces automated assembly equipment and is moving into contract manufacturing.  Forbes said they're also beginning to make production parts for Honda, and he does consulting work for other firms.

The company began in 2008 at a location along North Route 45 and then moved into the former Donnewald Distributing building along East Route 40 in 2010.  Now, it's time for another move to an even larger facility to accommodate its expanding workload.

City Economic Development Director Todd Hull said Versatech plans to move to a building along Wernsing Avenue in the City Business Park.  The firm now employs 35 people, but plans to add another 20 jobs by the end of 2013.  The City will provide $75,000 in grant monies.  Versatech is guaranteeing that the jobs to be created will have an average salary of $45,000.

The new facility is a 70,000 square foot structure, compared to the 15,000 square feet facility that now houses the business.

Not as happy for the Council was yet another discussion regarding 911 and an intergovernmental agreement that would cause 911 to pay the City and the County $20,000 more than they now receive for providing telecommunicators.  The agreement on the table is to leave the reimbursement to the City and County at $65,000 annually for the first year so 911 has the funds to pay for an efficiency study, and then increase the reimbursement to $85,000 the second year and then 2% annual increases in the reimbursement rate in subsequent years.

Commissioner Don Althoff said he wants the extra $20,000 for the City now, and if 911 wants funds to conduct the study, they can ask for the funds.

City Administrator Jim Arndt, though, said that's not the agreement on the table and it's not what 911 has agreed to.  Arndt said he wants an agreement in place that will get the study undertaken and get the City additional reimbursement.

A vote on a separate agreement between 911 and the City is expected at the Council's next meeting.  The Effingham County Board voted 4-4 on the agreement at their meeting Monday, but there were statements at the Council meeting last night that the County Board might take another vote on the agreement at their November meeting.

Council members also approved a plat of a four-lot subdivision along the West Fayette frontage road; approved a contract for inspection of sewer lines in the central part of town; and rezoned land along East Route 33 from non-urban to general commercial district.  KCH Mechanical plans to relocate to the site next to Woodlawn Cemetery.  Commissioner Matt Hirtzel voted against the rezoning, saying the City needs to encourage business growth within the city limits.

The Council approved rezoning in a large tract of land a couple of blocks north of the hospital that is to be developed with medical facilities to accommodate the prospective purchase and development of the land tracts.  Also approved was rezoning land on the southeast corner of 3rd and Rickelman to allow development of the site.  Managing Member of the group that owns the land, Gene Niemerg, said they've spoken with several interests about developing a large gas station on the location.

Council members agreed to issue general obligation refunding bonds to lower the interest rate the City is paying on the money borrowed to pay for the early retirements of several city workers two years ago.  The refinancing is projected to save the City $235,000 in interest costs.

The Council agreed to remove the underground water storage tank along Grove Avenue, and agreed to add a concrete floor in a new City maintenance building.