Monroe council officially revokes tax deal for Rivertown Brewery

Monroe City Council Tuesday revoked a tax abatement for Rivertown Brewery Company, LLC, that was granted in May 2016.

Council voted 6-1 to revoke CRA tax abatement, with Vice Mayor Keith Funk casting the lone no vote.

“We had the same opportunity before to play this same card which is Rivertown defaulted,” Funk said. “We could have changed the CRA then. I just didn’t think that in the middle of a pandemic it was the correct thing to do.”

Councilman Robert Routson responded to comments Rivertown owner Jason Roeper made in a previous Journal-News story, in which he said revoking the tax deal “made the city look bad.”

“We were not the ones doing the bad things,” Routson said. “They (Rivertown) were the ones not supporting the city of Monroe, in my opinion.”

Councilman Todd Hickman said Rivertown cannot use COVID-19 as an excuse because the city gave them a lot of opportunities before the pandemic struck.

Discussions and debate about Rivertown’s abatement has been going on for one to two years and have been conducted in executive session, according to Mayor Jason Frentzel.

. Officials said Roeper did not respond to inquiries made before action was taken.

The Journal-News Wednesday obtained the notice of default letter sent March 9 by City Manager William Brock that said Rivertown owed $72,370 in unpaid taxes and payments not made as part of a plan for previous lapses in payment. On May 8, Monroe filed a second tax lien against the property at 6550 Hamilton-Lebanon Road.

All tax abatements granted by a city are reviewed annually by the Butler County and the Warren County tax incentive review councils to ensure compliance with the agreement, such as creating jobs and no delinquencies.

Rivertown’s CRA agreement was for a 45% abatement on the annual property tax for five years and for job creation. Jennifer Patterson, assistant to the city manager for economic development, said Rivertown defaulted on tax payments and employee counts. Rivertown was to have created 55 full-time and 10 part-time jobs by Dec. 31, 2019.

The CRA agreement for Rivertown Brewery was the focus of a review on May 21 by the Butler County Tax Incentive Review Council that was triggered when Rivertown failed to pay its first half Butler County property taxes in February 2020. Council also approved an emergency resolution to accept the TIRC recommendation to modify the Rivertown agreement at its July 14 meeting.

Rivertown had a payment plan with Butler County for previous unpaid property taxes. As a result of the nonpayment and a failure to make the April payment, the existing Butler County payment plan for previously due taxes that had not been paid is no longer valid.

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