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St. Francis tax abatement proposal delayed

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The Columbus City Council has put off for two weeks a decision on a tax abatement for a medical office in the former Goodyear Tire building on Second Street.

Franciscan St. Francis Health and Tipton Park Offices had asked the council to approve a tax abatement for the proposed doctors’ office at 123 Second St. The hospital chain was scheduled to make a presentation to the city’s incentive review committee and the council.

Instead, on Tuesday night St. Francis and Tipton Park Offices asked for the discussion to be tabled, and the City Council concurred. The incentive review committee meeting, where City Council members go over the details of the abatement request, was not conducted.

A crowd of about 30 people filled the City Council Chambers for the discussion, including a contingent from Columbus Regional Hospital.

City Attorney Kelly Benjamin explained to the audience and council members that there were difficulties finding the ordinance which established the location as part of an economic revitalization area. Chris Schilling, the city’s communications and programs coordinator, found out midafternoon that the area was so designated in 1984 according to an old map.

“(St. Francis) got all of that information as of about quarter of five tonight,” Benjamin said. “We were going to find all of that, but it came late. So they wanted an opportunity to review those documents, and I believe council also wanted an opportunity to review those things.”

Benjamin said that the year it was designated as an economic revitalization area would determine the length of the tax abatement the city could offer. Under a tax abatement, the developer would pay no property taxes on the improvements in the first year, and they would be phased in over the life of the abatement.

Schilling said the decision to ask for the abatement to be tabled was made just before the 6 p.m. start time of the council meeting.

Barry Sullivan, vice president for business development at St. Francis, said after the meeting that he could not discuss the proposed offices and referred questions to the hospital’s media relations staff.

The media relations staff did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, Friday or Monday.

CRH CEO and President Jim Bickel was present. Previously, Bickel has said he thinks the plan by St. Francis to open an office in Columbus is a predatory move.

Based on information included in its tax-abatement application, the downtown medical office would start with two physicians, five medical assistants and an office manager, generating estimated annual salaries of $587,600.

Growth could include another physician, two medical assistants and an X-ray technician, which would add about $317,000 more in annual salaries, according to the application.

Construction would include a new façade for the building, plus gutting and remodeling the interior of the building, according to the application.

If granted, the abatement would mean the company would pay no property taxes on its improvements for the first year and the taxes would be phased in over 10 years, according to the Columbus Community Development office. According to state law, costs associated with the project are confidential.

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