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City Council grants nearly $1 million in abatements

April 24, 2018 GMT

MICHIGAN CITY — The Michigan City Common Council granted two tax abatements worth nearly $1 million combined on April 17 — one to an existing local business, and the other to an incoming employer.

One abatement, worth $393,396 over the course of five years, was to Michigan City Hotels LLC, which is working with Amerilodge Group to build a new four-story, 58,000-square-foot Holiday Inn Express & Suites on the south side of Kieffer Road near Frontage road.

Ninety guest rooms, meeting rooms, a swimming pool, fitness center and breakfast bar will come standard as part of the brand’s new “Formula Blue” design.

The $7.2 million project will bring 25 new jobs to the city, and is expected to be complete by the end of March 2019.

Amerilodge CEO and President Asad Malik fielded questions from the council Tuesday.

He informed them two of the 25 positions will be assistant managers, and the remainder will be lower level, with a starting minimum hourly wage of $9.25. Some of the positions will be full-time and others will be part-time. Medical coverage will be a 50/50 split between the company and employee. And the employee will pay 100 percent of dental and vision coverage. Retirement benefits like 401k will be available only to those in management positions, Malik said.

The city council approved the abatement with an 8-1 vote, with Council President Don Przybylinski dissenting.

Mulhern Belting Inc., a conveyor belt manufacturer and wholesaler that has been in Michigan City for more than five years, received the other tax abatement, worth $600,000 over the course of five years.

The company, which currently employs 15 people, wishes to expand its Lumber Center Road facility by 14,000 square feet at an investment of $1 million. Doing so reportedly will add up to 10 new employees over the course of the next five years.

Councilwoman Pat Boy said she’s happy Mulhern decided to stay in Michigan City instead of moving to Portage.

The council voted 7-2 to approve the abatement, with Przybylinski and Councilman Johnny Stimley dissenting.

Stimley said he voted against the abatement because no representative from Mulhern attended that Tuesday’s council meeting.

During the council comment portion at the end of the meeting, Councilman Tim Bietry expressed disapproval of the dissenting votes, and said the council’s role should be to encourage businesses to come to and stay in Michigan City.

Przybylinski defended his votes, saying he doesn’t believe the low wages the hotel will pay its employees warrants such a large tax abatement. He also agreed with Stimley that a Mulhern representative should have attended the meeting to answer questions should the council have had any.

In other business:

• Unanimously, the council approved the appropriation of $316,713 from the Riverboat Fund to be used for the restoration of the Rotary Castle, one of several Works Progress Administration buildings at the Washington Park Zoo.

• The council voted 9-0 to approve $15,000 in contractual legal services be paid from the Riverboat Fund to City Attorney Jim Meyer.

• All nine council members voted to vacate the public right-of-way and retention area easement near Ohio Street and Riviera Drive.

• The council hosted two public hearings: One on an appropriation of $46,906.75 from the Riverboat Fund for emergency snow removal services, and another on an appropriation of $99,630 from the Cumulative Capital Development Fund for new gear and equipment for the Michigan City Fire Department. No public comments were submitted during either.