County to address Fellsmere fire hydrant payment, tax abatement

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Board of Indian River County Commissioners is expected to once again take up a discussion on paying the City of Fellsmere for fire hydrant maintenance at today’s meeting.

Commissioner are also supposed to discuss a proposed ordinance that would provide the framework for the county offering tax breaks to new and expanding businesses.

Earlier this month, commissioners approved paying Fellsmere what the city says it is owed this year for maintaining the fire hydrants Indian River County Fire Rescue uses. However, the county is still in arrears by nearly $13,000 over the bill from 2009 and is accruing a $30 per day fine from the city’s code enforcement along with other legal fees.

The county has filed an appeal with the courts to overturn Fellsmere’s case against the county. That lawsuit is still pending in the court system and is expected to take several months before a panel of judges can review it.

Today’s discussion is expected to consist of County Attorney Alan Polackwich recommending to commissioners that the county go ahead and pay the 2009 bill and the legal fees associated with it – on the condition that if the county wins the lawsuit, the City of Fellsmere would return the county’s money.

The next step in the discussion would be to ask the Fellsmere City Council to approve the agreement. The council meets this Thursday.

Also up for discussion at the commission meeting today is the county’s proposed tax abatement ordinance. The ordinance, if approved, would set out how new and expanding businesses within the unincorporated parts of the county could receive a property tax freeze.

Voters will be asked in November whether or not they want the Board of County Commissioners to offer tax abatements to businesses that either operate in a targeted industry or provide a certain level of pay or hire a certain number of people.

If voters say yes, as the City of Sebastian’s voters did last November, then the county’s ordinance would go into effect. If voters say no, the ordinance would not be used.

If approved, businesses could have their property taxes frozen at their current rate for a period of time – up to one decade – depending on how many jobs and what level of pay those businesses offer.

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