MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Marquette City Commission voted on an amendment to the Duke LifePoint Marquette General Replacement Hospital Brownfield Plan on May 24.
In the plan, DLP Marquette General hospital receives money from the city as a loan to be paid back through Tax Increment Financing. Originally the allowed indebtedness was $52,403,650. Under the amendment, the maximum allowed indebtedness would increase to $52,853,650 and would to help finance eligible activities at the Beacon House site.
David Allen, Chair of the City of Marquette Brownfield Authority, says they had thought it was possible that the hospital wouldn’t use all of the money originally allowed under the brownfield plan and that some of that could be directed to the Beacon House.
“It turned out the hospital did use all of their full amounts and there was no money left in the original brownfield plan to cover what Beacon House wanted to do,” said Allen. “So that then allowed us to consider this new idea…, we could amend that original brownfield plan to add $460,000 to cover these activities, these brownfield eligible activities, that Beacon House wanted done.”
Allen says the Marquette Brownfield authority passed the amendment in February after checking whether it fit with the law and with city policies. The amendment then would have had to pass through the city commission for approval. Mayor Jenna Smith says typically Brownfield plans are done with for-profit entities and that it’s not common for non-profit organizations to work with a for-profit organization to use brownfield money.
“Duke Lifepoint had their Brownfield Plan and they certainly have some money leftover in that Brownfield Plan if they needed to do some additional remediation or whatever fell within that plan and they were trying to take those dollars that had been allocated to them and work Beacon House into that plan for Beacon house to be able to have access to those Brownfield dollars,” said Smith.
Smith says she finds her role as mayor and a city commissioner is to ensure financial stability for the city, for the taxpayer of the City of Marquette and to ensure they are spending their money on essential city services.
“As much as I wholeheartedly support the efforts of the Beacon House and what they do, they are a fantastic nonprofit, they do amazing things for folks coming in to get treatment but the hard part was that supporting them in this way was not part of our strategic or master plan it’s not part of what the residents have charged us with as our role as city commissioners and so I personally didn’t feel that I could support that Brownfield adjustment,” said Smith.
Jessica Hanley, Marquette City Commissioner, also voted no on the amendment. She says because the Beacon House is a nonprofit, they will not pay property taxes that go towards paying back the money from the brownfield plan.
“They are not being taxed on that property ever, in perpetuity the Beacon House gets that property tax free from the city which is what they did at the old Beacon House property which is a wonderful thing to do for them I think,” said Hanley. “But because of that when they wrote the plan for the property being not tax free they did write into it that they were not eligible for dollars from the Brownfield plan because of the fact that brownfields are paid back with tax incremental financing and they wouldn’t be taxed and thus no taxes would be paid back in theory.”
DLP Marquette General Hospital would pay back the approximately $450,000 that was requested in the amendment. Hanley says that they have a cap on how much brownfield money can be loaned and it’s money that could be used for other brownfield projects.
“As a city commission we have to look at it and say this is tax money from the City of Marquette, is it fair to allow one nonprofit to benefit from this tax money when we don’t give any other non-profit in the city tax money ever,” said Hanely. “That’s where my holdup was why I couldn’t vote for it, I love the Beacon House after the meeting I donated to their fund for this building, I believe in this building but I couldn’t give them tax money from the city and find it fair to do it in any way is the way I saw it.”
Mary Tavernini, CEO of the Hospitality House of the Upper Peninsula, says they were advised that this could be a way to help reimburse the remediation of some contaminants on the site they are building on.
“When we first started this construction you know we built here on this land that the hospital had originally owned and it was originally designated as a Brownfield site, and so we were advised by some of the professionals, that there was an opportunity a way for us to be reimbursed to do some of the cleanup on the land so we followed that procedure at their recommendation but when it got to the city level the city disagreed,” said Tavernini.
Tavernini says they had hoped it would be money they wouldn’t have to fundraise.
“We had actually had this little glimmer of hope that we would have some additional funds that we would actually be reimbursed so it was that much less money that we would need to raise but now with this as the latest development we’re just going to continue to raise the money,” sid Tavernini.
She says they are grateful for the support they receive.
“So grateful to all the people who came out and wanted to let the city know that they were behind us and they would hope for a yes vote, grateful to the city for giving us an opportunity to talk to them about it and to look into that opportunity, and I’m just grateful that we’re this far along and that we’re going to find more help.”