Posted 11/08/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The City of Tioga held another mediation meeting with Hess over plans to annex the company’s office complex and Hess railyard into the city borders. Hess has protested the intention to annex since the summer of 2015, and the matter has been in mediation ever since.
Since the meeting involves potential litigation, it was not required by law to be open to the public. At the request of the mediators, the city went into executive session.
According to City Auditor Abby Salinas, the meeting largely consisted of the company providing tax impact figures, as well as some figures on Hess’s donations to the city.
“It was basically just a summary,” Salinas said.
In addition to representatives from Hess, the meeting was attended by City Engineer Antonio Conti, City Attorney Ben Johnson, and Commissioners Todd Thompson and John Grubb.
Though some of it contained specific, proprietary tax figures Grubb said there was nothing “earth-shattering” about the company’s presentation.
It was largely just about numbers, which he could understand the main concern for a company would be how it impacts the bottom line.
However, he said, the city’s interests are different. They provide the office and railyard with city water and sewer services.
“We want them to be treated like everyone else in the city,” Grubb said.
The company was trying to show an overall benefit to the existing relationship to the city, Grubb said, but the meeting didn’t result in the city being dissuaded from its position that the two areas should be annexed.
“We still have the same intentions, and I don’t see any benefit to us from dropping it,” Grubb said.
He said the city wants to maintain a good “working relationship” with the company and there’s no denying the benefit they provide Tioga.
“They do a lot for the city. I really want to point that out,” he said.
This includes a variety of donations to schools and emergency responders. But, Grubb said, the residents of Tioga also provide these things.
“That’s just being an active member of the community,” he said.
While the issue will need to be discussed with the rest of the commission and the city’s legal counsel, Grubb said he is optimistic about finding an agreement with the company to move forward on the annexation.
The meeting concluded with the company asking the city to discuss the matter and return with a response in a couple weeks.
Hess officials declined to comment on the meeting.