Thanks to something called a "TIF district", since the beginning of January, 2013, the city of Morton suddenly had had about $4 million in funds they didn’t have the year earlier to devote to development around town.
It all began with something as mundane named as a “tax increment financing district.” “When Harvestland wanted to develop and add to their facility, we created a TIF district,” said Morton Mayor Carl Colwell last week. The final result: since the beginning of January, 2013, the city of Morton suddenly had about $4 million in funds they didn’t have the year earlier to devote to development around town. “We had an opportunity to reinvest in the community in all sorts of ways,” said Colwell. The results can already be seen around town: • City Hall For years, the Morton city hall has been in the basement of the old Morton opera house, while the upstairs was used for community gatherings. It was much too much space for what the city needed. “With TIF money, we helped the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center purchase the former Abraham’s Woodshed,” said Colwell. The learning center is leasing space to the city for a temporary city hall, until the city council decides whether to build a new, separate facility for itself later. • The Minnesota Valley Learning Center The center moved out of its former home in the old Morton school. Colwell said the center’s various academic and summer rec plans are unchanged, or will be expanding. The center’s popular summer rec programming, just finishing its third year, attracted 125 students from across the Minnesota River Valley this year, with a waiting list. “We plan to expand to 250 students next year,” Colwell said. “When we started three years ago, we had six staff members. This summer we had 21.” • River Valley Arms and Ammo The city sold the old city hall building to a new Redwood area business that was considering building a new facility on Highway 19/71: River Valley Arms and Ammo. The sale was for one dollar, to be reimbursed for the assessed value of the property ($83,000) from TIF funds. River Valley Arms and Ammo is currently in the process of remodeling the inside for a showroom. • Morton Pub With TIF funding, the city was able to help new owner Brandon Koerner reopen the business. • Green Lighthouse photography studio. TIF financing also helped Green Lighthouse photo studio relocate from its current home in downtown Redwood Falls into the old Methodist church in Morton. To make room for more development, two long-standing structures in the Morton area are currently set to be demolished: the former B-Original and Las Palmas buildings, and the classroom area of the old Morton school. The original gymnasium is planned to stay, but be remodeled into a light manufacturing facility. In addition to all the planned work downtown, a new firehall is planned downtown. That, however, needs the approval of Morton residents, and will be voted upon next November. “All of this changes no one’s tax bill,” Colwell said. “In fact, if we are able to attract new business, it could make taxes go down.”