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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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MCIDC Approves First Housing Renovation Project

Issue Date: April 29, 2020

At a meeting on Tuesday, April 28, members of Marinette County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC) board of directors approved a two-family home at 1842 Liberty Street in Marinette as the first project to be carried out under an agreement with NewCap through which that agency will oversee renovation of selected properties taken over by Marinette County for unpaid back taxes before they are put back on the market.

The program has been in the making since at least last November, when County Administrator John LeFebvre explained the proposal the County Board's Administrative Committee. County Board in March approved establishment of a $500,000 fund to pay for the renovations until the properties are sold, and assigned oversight of the program to MCIDC.

LeFebvre explained in the past the properties taken on tax liens were simply cleaned up slightly by county employees and then eventually offered for sale at county auctions for a low minimum bid price. Often he said the properties were purchased for very low prices, allowed to deterioriate further, and then allowed to go back to the county again for non-payment of taxes. He said once the properties are improved they will be offered for sale at a higher minimum price, which means they will provide more money for the county when they are sold, and will bring in more property taxes each year because they will have a higher assessed value.

The home in question was taken for $9,361.74 in back taxes, but had a large amount of medical liens against it, which led the family to let it go. The extensive renovations proposed for this double residential unit will cost an estimated $76,437.56

The NewCap summary describes the home as an American Four-square style approximately 120 years of age, in good structural condition with no improvements made in recent years. The once single family home was converted to a multi-family residence probably in the late 1930's early 40's. It is located on a quiet residential street just two blocks from the downtown area.

County Board Chair John Guarisco commented that if this program works as it is intended to work it will be a great benefit to the county.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison pointed out the county has a need for more decent housing and this program should help accomplish that goal as well as providing ann increased tax base for the county.

Comments of other board members indicated confidence that the eventual sale price should be far higher than the improvement costs and back taxes combined.

MCIDC directors also spent some time discussing problems faced by small family businesses in surviving losses due to the coronavirus shutdowns. Executive Director Mike Piasecki explained that the federal assistance packages in the form of SBA loans are tied to helping businesses keep up with payroll and the smallest of the businesses often have little or no payroll other than the owners, who are not allowed to include payments to themselves to qualify for loan forgiveness.

"There are definitely some holes in the program," Piasecki commented.

Board members agreed to get more information and put that issue on the agenda for more discussion at their next meeting, which is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, in the Jury Room of the Marinette County Courthouse annex. They agreed with a suggestion made by Board Member Kim Brooks at the last meeting that their organization should consider stepping in to help the businesses that need it most.

Guarisco and others also noted the difficulties some businesses are having getting their employees to come back to work because they are getting more in unemployment benefits than they would be paid.

MCIDC has offered to accept interest only payments from loans they have made to small businesses for 90 days, and Piasecki reported briefly on the response. Four businesses have been accepted for the interest only agreements and more applications are expected.

The board agreed to release a mortgage on a 32 acre parcel in Florence County in exchange for life insurance and a second position lien on Auntie M's Child Care Center at 801 Roosevelt Road in Niagara.

Present in person for he meeting were LeFebvre, Guarisco, Mattison, Piasecki, and County Finance Director Laura Mans. Participating by phone were Board Chair Diane Becker, Brooks and Shelly Ghere. Member Steve Votis was unable to participate.


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