Lawrence council delays Harris & Ford development bonds

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A $1.98 million bond request for chemical manufacturer Harris & Ford’s planned expansion at its Fort Ben site was delayed by the Lawrence Common Council during its Dec. 4 meeting.

Council members expressed concern that the 20-year bond debt would be paid through property taxes — taxes that otherwise would benefit the city’s general fund.

The $30 million project would expand Harris & Ford’s existing facilities at 9307 E. 56th St. in the former Fort Benjamin Harrison base. Plans call for a rail spur in addition to a new 141,000 square-foot distribution facility.

According to city documents, the rail spur would include 3,500 linear feet of rail connected to the CSX mainline that runs through Lawrence. A tank farm would also be constructed to hold products the company makes for the food and beverage industry.

Plans also call for a “beautification project” east of the existing building that would convert a pond and part of the grounds into a retention creek. That part of the project is intended to correct stormwater drainage issues in the area, according to the documents.

The bond payments would be financed through taxes generated by the property’s increased assessed value after the development is completed.

Harris & Ford owner Tim Harris said the company could expand operations elsewhere, but they want to do the project in Lawrence.

“If you don’t do anything — if you say, ‘No, we’re not going to support Harris & Ford’ — are we still going to build it? Maybe,” he said. “My church is in Lawrence. We built a school that’s A-rated by the Indiana Gradebook. So will we leave Lawrence? No. Will we build this warehouse and do this expansion here in Lawrence or will we just let trees grow back on it? I don’t know.”

At-large councilmember Lisa Chavis, who also chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, said she’s generally supportive of the project. However, she said additional information was presented during the meeting and she wanted more time to consider it.

The bond ordinance will come back to the Lawrence Common Council during its Dec. 20 meeting, and an Economic Development Committee meeting is expected to take place before the full council gathers that evening.

Also during the Dec. 4 meeting, the council approved an ordinance to accept $400,000 in grant funds from the Indiana Finance Authority to help pay for a federally required lead-pipe inventory that’s due by October 2024.


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