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Council OKs tax breaks for 2 companies creating 70 jobs

City Council members on Tuesday approved two property tax breaks for companies promising to create almost 70 new jobs.

BRC Rubber & Plastics is moving its headquarters to Fort Wayne from Churubusco, and will spend $365,000 on offices and a research and development center. BRC makes molded rubber and plastic products for the auto industry.

The move will create 55 full-time jobs paying an average of $55,000 a year. BRC, 1029 W. State Blvd., employs 710 people at various locations in northeast Indiana. The tax break will save the company about $45,000 over 10 years.

Press-Seal Gasket Corp. will spend $3.million on manufacturing equipment, which will create 14 full-time jobs, officials said. Press-Seal Gasket, 2424 W. State Blvd., makes sealing products for underground collection systems, and has been growing: The company received a tax break in February for a $200,000 investment to convert office space, and has added 10 additional jobs since then.

The tax break approved Tuesday will save the firm about $154,000 over seven years.

The tax breaks, formerly known as tax abatements and now called tax phase-ins, freeze the tax on a property where a big investment is made. The owner keeps paying the same amount of property taxes, plus the increased taxes which are phased in gradually.

The council also gave final approval to the purchase of the house at 4834 S. Lafayette St. The house sits among six empty lots purchased years ago when the Indiana Department of Transportation widened Lafayette and planned a right-turn lane for southbound traffic turning onto Petit Avenue. But the turn lane was never built because one owner, Francis Stoner, wouldn't sell.

Now, Stoner has offered to sell the home for $35,700, and a divided council took him up on the idea. Administration officials said they did not have plans for the property but some council members said they did not want to spend money on something when the city couldn't articulate why it was needed.

John Crawford, R-at large, pointed out that the state condemned some of the property to widen Lafayette, making the front of the house just 10 feet from the road. He doubted Stoner could sell it to anyone even at the reduced price offered to the city.

"It seems like we're being very nice to someone when he can't really sell it for this and all we're going to do is tear it down," Crawford said last week during debate on the issue. "I'm quite sure we could get it for less if we needed it at some point in the future."

Marty Bender, R-at large, wondered why the city wanted it at all.

"It's a state highway," Bender said of Lafayette. "I don't understand why the city of Fort Wayne is paying money out for a right turn lane."

Eventually, though, the measure passed 5-4, with Crawford; Bender; John Shoaff, D-at large; and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, voting no.

The council also voted unanimously to hire American Structurepoint for $439,680 to convert Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue to two-way streets next year. Staff said the contract was necessary because the project – which includes a roundabout where the streets cross Superior Street and join Wells – will dramatically change downtown.