In support of a planned expansion by a Kan-Can Holdings LLC. (Redbarn Pet Products), the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved a resolution extending economic development property tax exemptions to the company. It applied for the tax abatement to cover real estate\building improvements and employment opportunities at the facility south of Great Bend.
The commissioners’ action followed a public hearing at the outset of their meeting. There was no opposition to the request.
“The company believes it should receive the tax abatement as it has invested $35,625 in newly acquired land and $3,127,920 in building improvements since 2019,” county Finance Officer Matt Patzner said. Redbarn said this should allow the company to expand by 74 employees over the next three years.
This takes in Rebarn’s new, massive 85,000-square-foot structure that sits just west of U.S. 281 and SE 10 Road near its main plant.
The application is being made under the authority of Article 11, Section 13 of the Kansas Constitution, and the county’s Statement of Policy and Procedures - Tax Exemptions and Incentives for Economic Development, Patzner said. “There are several options available to the commission.”
State law allows counties to exempt part or all of a company’s property taxes for up to 10 years as an economic development incentive. In addition to rejecting the request, the county can offer a 100% exemption annually over the course of the decade or it can be a tiered formula, starting at 100% the first year and decreasing by 10% annually.
Commissioners approved option three.
This marks the second time Redbarn has received such an exemption. The first was approved in June 2011, a year after the California firm purchased the former Great Bend Packing plant.
That exemption expires this year, and it provided for a 100% exemption for all 10 years. During that time, a total of about $208,000 in property taxes was exempted.
“Times change and needs change of our communities,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said of their reasoning. The commission is reexamining the abatements it has granted with an eye towards they county’s budget, and the impact on its mill levy and taxpayers.
“We’re not picking on you,” she said, noting this is a compromise. “Barton County wants to be business friendly.”
Over the 10 years, the straight 100% option would amount to a total of $1.2 million in abatements. The tiered option results in $562,883.
Also present were Redbarn owners Howard Bloxam and Jeff Baikie.
“That’s fair, we understand,” Baikie said.
Baikie said the company continues to expand its pet product production and internet presence. But, “our biggest problem in Great Bend is finding employees. We could hire 50 to 100 people if we could.”
They currently employ 272 people with an average wage of $14 per hour, plus overtime.
“Redbarn has been extremely easy to work with,” said County Appraiser Barb Esfeld. “They are a good partner.”
Barton County Commission meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:
• Approved a property tax abatement for Redbarn Pet Products for economic development. Passage of the resolution followed a public hearing on the matter.
• Met as the Barton County Board of Health. Commissioners accepted the resignation of Dr. Stanley Hatesohl as the county’s health consultant and appointed Dr. Jonathan Pike to fill the vacancy.
• Accepted the resignation of Hatesohl as the 20th Judicial District coroner due to his retirement and moving out of state.
This is a post he’s held since December 2019, filling the unexpired term of longtime coroner Dr. Dusty Jones. That would have run through December 2022.
• Appointed Dr. Patrick Stiles as district coroner. According to state law, it falls to the county with the largest population in a judicial district to make such appointments.
Stiles was named to a four-year term.
• Approved establishing weight limits for certain bridges maintained by Barton County, rescinding a resolution adopted March 4, 2019.
Engineering load ratings have been performed on certain county-maintained bridges as required by federal regulations, said County Engineer Barry McManaman. These regulations require that weight limit signs be installed at bridges that do not have enough capacity to safely support state legal loads.
This action requires that the described bridges be posted with weight limits until such time that said bridge is replaced or conditions are corrected, McManaman said.
• Approved the buy-back option for track loaders used by the Road and Bridge Department.
Road and Bridge purchased two T650 T4 Bobcat Track Loader from Bobcat of Salina, County Works Director Darren Williams said. Both have been updated each year since purchase in 2014 and in 2017, respectively.
The cost to utilize the roll over is $7,000 each, up from the $4,550 cost in 2019. Now, the current units will be replaced with a 2021 model T76, which replaces the T650 as it is no longer manufactured.
• Accepted the awarding of a United States Department of Agriculture Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant.
Barton, Ellsworth, Rice and Stafford counties have been awarded $781,126.96 from the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, said county Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper. This funding will provide critical telehealth equipment to each county’s health department, the detention facilities in Barton and Ellsworth counties, and to Central Kansas Community Corrections and 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services.
In addition, the commission approved a bid from Solutionz of Los Angeles, Calif., totaling $898,296. Cooper solicited quotes from telemedicine vendors for equipment needed under the USDA grant. Equipment under this bid will allow each of the counties to host telemedicine programs.
• Approved the expenditure of the remaining $31,968.91 in Healthy Community Initiative grant funding. Barton County has received the necessary documentation from the Kansas Health Foundation to make final plans to use the balance of the HCI funds, which will, in essence, provide approval of purchases, reimbursements, and/or expenditures up to the amount specified, Cooper said.
• Approved the replacement of computers.
The county has developed a plan for the annual replacement of a certain number of computers. This improves the county’s technological capabilities and allows for more consistent budgeting. The Information Technology Department has researched options for the purchase of 24 Microsoft Surface laptop computers and six desktop computers, said Dereck Hollingshead, network administrator/IT service technician. The winning bid was for $31,135 from SHI International of Somerset, N.J., and this was 12% lower than the lowest local bid.