Abatement eyed to aid potential expansion

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BEACON FALLS — The owner of the Murtha Industrial Park is in discussions with the town on a potential tax abatement in an effort to keep a company looking to expand in Beacon Falls.

The industrial park at 7 Railroad Ave. currently has about a dozen businesses, including the Thule Group.

The Thule Group, which manufactures and sells travel gear and on-bike racks and bags, is based in Sweden and has more 50 production and sales locations all over the world, according to the company’s website. Thule is the largest brand in the Thule Group.

The company’s U.S headquarters are in Seymour.

Harold Murtha, who owns the Murtha Industrial Park, said the company is looking to consolidate its operations. He is hoping the company chooses to do so in Beacon Falls.

“We’re trying to get Thule, which is a great tenant, to stay here and expand,” Murtha said.

A message left with a representative of Thule seeking comment was not returned as of this post.

Thule’s facility in Beacon Falls is about 100,000 square feet, Murtha said. In order to ensure the building is big enough to meet the company’s needs, Murtha is planning to add an additional 40,000 square feet to the building.

In order for the addition to make financial sense for him, Murtha said, he would need some tax relief from the town. He is seeking an 80 percent tax abatement on the additional 40,000 square feet for five years.

Murtha has had informal talks with town officials about the abatement and the topic was the subject of discussion at the Sept. 14 the Board of Selectmen meeting.

“Harold would be very interested in expanding his facility to offer [Thule] the option of staying put and bringing something else into town. But there are economic reasons he would be looking to see if there is any economic assistance that the town of Beacon Falls and the state, under the statutes, [can provide],” First Selectmen Christopher Bielik said.

Bielik said Beacon Falls is part of the state’s Economic Enterprise Zone. Under the zone, a business can apply for a tax abatement program that is a 40-40-20 split for five years. This means Murtha would be responsible for 20 percent of the taxes on the additional 40,000 square feet, the state would pay 40 percent of the taxes, and the town would forgive 40 percent of the taxes.

The board voted to hire Alexander “Oley” Karp, a consultant, on the recommendation of legal counsel to help find any additional ways the town can implement a tax abatement.

Karp previously worked for the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of Strategic Competitiveness from 1999 until 2007, and has assisted Seymour with tax abatement work, Bielik said.

Karp’s fee is $50 an hour. Bielik said he is worth the price.

“I think it’s definitely in the town’s interest for us to bring Mr. Karp to the table,” Bielik said.

Officials are hoping to have a recommendation in hand within the next six weeks.

“Time is of the essence as far as the Murthas are concerned. I explained to Mr. Carp that Thule has about a year and a half left to go on their lease, but they want to break ground as soon as they can and make a decision on whether they are going to stay or going to go,” Bielik said.

While the wheels are in motion, Murtha said speculation on whether he can get the abatement he wants may be premature. He said last week he has not heard back from Thule on whether the company would want to consolidate in Beacon Falls.

“We are just trying to keep a great tenant happy,” Murtha said.