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The Vigo County Council on Tuesday evening by a 7-0 vote approved a tax abatement for Steel Dynamics Heartland LLC, clearing the way for a proposed $231 million expansion by the steel maker.

Steel Dynamics, 455 W. Industrial Drive, plans to invest about $231 million to expand its Vigo County plant and add 84 employees. The company intends to build a 390,000-square-foot building at cost of $34.65 million and install $196.35 million in new equipment.

That abatement should save the company about $25.4 million over 10 years, with about $16.9 million in taxes on new equipment and $8.5 million in taxes on its proposed new building. The company will pay full taxes on the added value once the abatement ends.

The vote marked final passage, as the council in August approved the measure on first reading, also by a 7-0 vote.

There was little discussion Tuesday, but supportive council members had previously cited the size of the investment and the attractiveness of the jobs that will be created.

The 84 additional jobs to be created will average $80,000 a year in pay, according to the Steel Dynamics, and the 226 existing jobs preserved have an average salary of $94,000.

As he did in August, Councilman Todd Thacker said the council should consider setting up a scale or format for evaluating future abatement requests.

Council members, including Marie Theisz and President Aaron Loudermilk, agreed.

“I think that concern or request is fair and something we should definitely consider moving forward,” said Loudermilk.

Steel Dynamic has said its expansion will take about two years to complete, with the first cold steel roll in production by the second half of 2023. The project will require 500 construction jobs at its peak.

Wages and classifications

In a separate matter, the county’s wage and job classification system remains as it stands — at least for now.

The Vigo County Board of Commissioners had a request for $66,500 before the County Council for professional services, namely to hire a consultant to update the county’s system of addressing employee pay.

Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele and Associates Inc., did a job classification and compensation study in 2015, but several parties in the county — including commissioners and a number of department heads and employees — feel a need for changes. They say the county is losing employees to other governmental agencies and to the private sector.

The commissioners and the county’s human resources department favored hiring Baker Tilly, an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in government work.

The council, however, has had questions including who should should be the contracting party for such a study, and council members have expressed concern about communication between the commissioners (the county’s executive body) and the council (the fiscal arm).

While the matter was at times being cast largely as the commissioners favoring Baker Tilly and the commissioners favoring WIS, Loudermilk said the council’s having questions or concerns about how to proceed does not mean it prefers one consultant over another.

In the end, the council voted 4-3 to deny the commissioners’ request for a $66,500 appropriation.

Procedurally, that kills the matter as a request from the commissioners, but the council could choose to re-raise it of its own accord.

After the meeting, Commissioner Brendan Kearns said the next step is clearly in the hands of the council, but he hopes the department heads, commissioners and council can continue the dialogue and come to a resolution that’s best for employees.

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