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Don’t count on council coming to its senses

Laying rotten eggs has become the new norm for the Fairmont City Council. It did so again Monday night when it could not find a way to agree on passing a tax abatement program to spur more multi-family housing in the city.

The program would serve as incentive to developers, because multi-family housing is not going up here due to financial constraints involved in such projects. The abatements would offer 10 years of property tax relief for new endeavors.

The Fairmont Economic Development Authority gave the proposal its unanimous approval. The Fairmont School Board added its endorsement, and Martin County commissioners like the idea so much they would like to extend it countywide.

None of this is good enough, though, for council members Tom Hawkins and Ruth Cyphers, who seem unable to accept any expertise or consensus that originates through city staff, or via the appropriate city committees or agencies. Hawkins always has some outside “expert” advice to throw into the process to gum up the works. As he did Monday. Or some pointless, micromanaging concern about where new housing will be built. Hawkins is terrified, apparently, that new housing units may go up on ag land instead of downtown. What difference does it make?

In any case, Councilman Randy Lubenow seemed ready to join colleagues Bruce Peters and Wayne Hasek in ratifying the tax abatement plan. Then he went wobbly and expressed – surprise! – confusion about it. So he abstained on whether to approve the proposal. Which killed it.

If the council can muster any common sense, it will reconsider this proposal and pass it. Which means don’t count on it.

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