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Priming the Pump: Wheatland TEDD Developer asks to be next in line for tax increments

Developer Craig Rickert of Montana Crossroads, LLC approached the Broadwater County Commission last week asking to be next in line for money generated from the Wheatland Targeted Economic Development District.

Rickert and Attorney Nathan Bilyeu presented the Commission with a Resolution asking the County to pledge $616,000 of annual tax increment to pay the debt service for infrastructure in the TEDD located off U.S. 287 in Three Forks. If eventually approved by the Commission, the payments would only happen after the completion of $396,000 of annual tax increments to the Headwaters Utility Association for the payment of a Tax Increment Financing bond for an association-owned and operated sewer system.

Bilyeu said what the Resolution is asking for is to be the next entity in line for the tax increment.

Discussing the Resolution asking for the pledge, Rickert said that if an individual wants to come in and invest in the County, they will put in the improvements that will help bring commercial property and businesses into the area. Rickert said this improvement would be for sewer, water, roads, and horizontal construction, adding it would not be any of the buildings, just the infrastructure.

Montana Crossroads, LLC has been issued a finance letter from First Montana Bank of Bozeman stating its interest in financing a revenue bond to pay for all or a portion of the project’s costs, estimated at $6 million.

A commercial real estate developer for the past 32 years, Rickert said water and sewer are the backbone of development. Rickert said there are two different water systems in the TEDD. He said one is for potable water, and the other is for reclaimed water for flushing toilets, fire suppression, and landscaping. Currently working on 36 acres on the east side of U.S. 287, Rickert said he and Bridger Brewing are making the infrastructure available for people to come in and put in vertical improvements, adding they will be charged county taxes that will be strictly used for TEDD. Rickert also told the Commission he has a fully funded purchase agreement from Murdoch’s and is also working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Secretary of Commerce to bring other businesses that may bring employment into the area.

“To me, this is priming the pump to help bring in business,” he said.

The Commission also heard from Rickert about a model in which he said the TEDD could last up to 25 to 30 years. Rickert said nobody outside the TEDD would be paying into it; no county general funds would ever be used for bond service, and at the end of the district, the County would receive the annual tax money.

Deputy County Attorney Jania Hatfield said a lot of money is currently dedicated to the pledge to the Headwaters Utility Association and asked Rickert why they are taking about a second pledge so early.

Rickert said he is developing in the area because of the TEDD, and if it weren’t for the district, he would be developing elsewhere. Rickert added that he is making improvements to get as much going as possible, and every business he brings in also pays for the water and sewer.

Hatfield also questioned why they came up with the number of $616,000 and asked for information on what the money would be used for.

Bilyeu said an itemized breakdown of the money could be provided.

The Commissioners did not act on the Resolution.