Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2002

tax break sought for Depot’ site

[06/14/02]A request for nearly $1 million to help develop a site for a Home Depot store on South Frontage Road just east of the Halls Ferry school site and the entrance to Halls Ferry Park is being formalized at City Hall.

Ergon Properties is requesting the money, which is guaranteed to be repaid, to prepare for a Home Depot development.

Vicksburg officials received a request for $900,000 in tax increment financing this week. Warren County was also asked to participate, but no figures were available.

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a tool used by local governments here for most developments from Pemberton Square mall to Vicksburg Factory Outlets to the Wal-Mart SuperCenter site and the now-vacant K mart location.

The public pays for leveling, drainage, parking lot or other structural work, and the advanced money is repaid through taxes due once property is developed.

Although no official presentation has been made by Ergon to either board, city officials say they are considering granting the request.

“We believe that this is in the best interest of the community, but we want to hear back from the citizens,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens who said several months ago that he had met privately with the developers.

City officials are asking citizens to e-mail comments about the TIF request or call the mayor’s office.

Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said supervisors were informally contacted about the request, but the board probably will not approve the TIF.

“They were going to do this project regardless,” George said. “Our participation was not a requirement for this thing to take place.”

Ergon Properties, based in Jackson, purchased the former Halls Ferry school building in February from the Vicksburg Warren School District for $451,599. Also purchased were some adjacent parcels with plans to develop a home improvement store on that site. Although Ergon has never publicly confirmed what company the development is for, city officials have said it will be a Home Depot.

Executives with the home improvement retailer have also said they have permission to put a store in Vicksburg.

The nearest Home Depot, a discount retailer of hardware, remodeling, gardening and other tools, appliances, equipment and materials, is in west Jackson, about 40 minutes away.

According to the request for tax incentives, Ergon will spend $17.7 million on the 25-acre site for the development. Once opened, Home Depot is expected to employ 275 people and generate about $259,000 a year in sales taxes to the city.

The improvements are also expected to generate about $201,100 in property taxes to the city, county and schools. Today, annual taxes on the property are about $2,000.

Tax increment financing was also used by the county for River Region Medical Center which opened Feb. 17. The hospital, which was originally planned for a site on Clay Street, had requested tax incentives from the city, but the city withdrew and the site on U.S. 61 North was chosen.

Ergon, based in Jackson, is best known for its oil- and paving-related business, including operations in Vicksburg. A division of the company, however, has real estate ventures, including commercial and mixed-use properties.

Home Depot operates 1,332 stores internationally, including more than 1,200 in the United States. The Atlanta-based company was founded in 1978.