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by Torie McCloy
Bridgeport City Council approved on first reading Monday an ordinance that would give businesses within the city limits incentive to expand.
If passed on final reading, the ordinance would allow a three-year freeze on Business and Occupation taxes for manufacturing or aviation businesses as long as the project costs more than $3 million and will add at least 15 employees to the payroll.
City Manager Harold Weiler said the ordinance is needed to do something for existing Bridgeport businesses, instead of just recognizing new ones. The code already provides a three-year tax freeze on new business development if the construction bears a $3 million or higher price tag and will employ 50 people.
Council member John Westfall said despite the loss of some B&O taxes, the city still benefits from the change. He said the higher-paying jobs the aviation and manufacturing companies bring into the community benefits everyone.
Council allocated an additional $80,000 for the Lodgeville Bridge project. The $1.2 million bridge is costing significantly more than engineers had predicted, Weiler said.
The $80,000 adds to $120,000 the city previously gave to the project. Weiler said it is the city's responsibility to pay 20 percent of the project cost. The rest of the funding is being provided through state and federal grants.
"We need that bridge for the wastewater treatment plant and for future development," Weiler said.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Timms said the city will nearly even out costs of the Lodgeville project by the B&O construction taxes paid back to it by the contractors.
Also Monday, council:
-- transferred $20,000 from the street maintenance budget to the sidewalk budget to finish improvements on 5th Street.
-- considered applications for the Municipal Building Commission. So far, only one resident has applied. Council plans to approach other residents to sit on the three-member commission, which was set up in 1990 and has never been used by the city. The commission can finance properties by issuing low-interest, tax-free bonds. The members will be appointed at the next regular meeting.