The city is ready to sell the vacant Nusun Inc. building to the highest bidder.
It hopes to get at least $575,000 for the 10,000-square foot building on 3.66 acres in the Woodside Industrial Park, where Nusun tried to make a go of producing solar panels, Columbus City Attorney Jeff Logston said.
Nusun’s CEO Ryan Stout told city council members last year that, just as his company entered the market, Chinese companies began flooding it with panels at artificially low prices because of financial backing from the Chinese government.
To help Nusun begin the business in 2011, the city provided $125,000 in economic income tax revenues (EDIT) and the county gave $100,000 in EDIT funds. The Columbus Redevelopment Commission gave $100,000 from the city’s tax-increment financing district, and the city of Lawrenceburg gave $500,000 from casino funds.
The city of Columbus also sponsored a $600,000 line of funding through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which was used to reimburse certain company expenditures. However, Nusun used only $71,349 of that money, and the city ended that sponsorship in 2013.
Most of the money the city, county and Lawrenceburg gave to Nusun was used to purchase its building, on which the city holds the mortgage, Logston said.
As part of its agreement, Nusun was required to meet hiring benchmarks, which it failed to do, Logston said.
The company had agreed in 2011 to have 80 employees by the end of 2012. Instead, by August 2013, Nusun had 17 employees.
When hiring benchmarks weren’t met, the city found Nusun out of compliance and required the company to begin paying $6,875 in monthly mortgage payments, which it failed to do.
By December, the city and the company agreed to end their agreement — with the city ending foreclosure proceedings against the company in exchange for Nusun handing ownership of the building over to the city.
The company was still required to pay about $14,000 in 2013 property taxes before being released from all obligations, but Logston said the company has failed to pay that.
As for recouping money from sale of the building, Logston said there will be some discussions among entities that gave money to Nusun, but he added the loan agreement on the building was only between Nusun and the city. The city will have to pay the 2013 taxes on the building as part of the sale.
County commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said that since all city and county taxpayers “just live on different blocks,” the county should have the money refunded the same way it was invested.
“We were in an interlocal cooperation agreement and participated that way,” Kleinhenz said. “To me, it seems like the fair thing would be to redistribute it at the level that it was contributed. It’s kind of like a bankruptcy settlement where you might get 50 percent of the money that you put in. We were asked to participate to help the city get it done.”
Bartholomew County attorney Grant Tucker said he would have to review the agreement to determine what it said. But the intent was that, if Nusun defaulted on its payments and sold the building, those who contributed and had the foresight to take the mortgage would get reimbursed, he said.
“Whatever amount was put in ought to be redistributed back to the entities from which it came from — at least in the percentage of the contribution,” Tucker said.
A notice that the city intends to sell the building is being published this week, as required by state statute, Logston said.
The city will accept bids starting next month. Any bidder that meets the criteria of offering 90 percent of the average of two appraisals on the building — which is $575,000 — could have its offer accepted, he said.
However, the bidding process can continue if other bidders want to raise their bid amounts. The city may stop and accept a bid at any time during the bid window, Logston said.
The city has received some indication of interest in the space, which has 7,500 square feet of warehouse space and about 2,500 square feet of offices. Its use most likely will be light manufacturing or warehousing, Logston said.