By Pat Maurer
It may take a few years, but Clare is going to get a new industrial park on the north side of the city.
Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to accept a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency grant totaling $2,680,860.00, sixty percent of the cost to build a new water tower, roads, and infrastructure on 60 acres along Colonville Road north of the city.
The EDA’s September 28 grant letter listed a total cost of the massive project is $4,468,100 leaving $1,787,240. as the city’s contribution.
To raise the matching funds, the city is planning to bond three amounts – two revenue bonds and one general obligation bond: $515,794.06 through the general fund; $335,017 through the city sewer fund; and $560,115 through the city water fund. The sewer fund will contribute $400,000 towards the project cost, and the contribution from the water system fund balance will be $350,000, The city’s spread sheet lists the total project costs at $4,806,800; the EDA grant at $2,645,873; a total of $750,000 from city fund balances and a total of $1,410,926 to be bonded out.
The EDA requires that the project – the Clare Industrial Park North – begin within 24 months of the date of the grant approval and that the construction period be 33 months.
Funds to pay back the three bonds will be raised through property and personal taxes and “captured taxes” through establishment of a LDFA. The Local Development Financing Act (Public Act 281 of 1986, amended) allows a city, village or urban township to utilize tax increment financing to fund public infrastructure improvements.
The new industrial park already has a committed tenant. An October 22 press release announced, “Consumers Energy will begin 2014 by breaking ground on a new $4 million, service center located on a 17-acre site in the [new] Clare Industrial Park on Colonville Road between South Clare and South Eberhart Avenues.”
At the last city meeting, City Manager Ken Hibl reported that Consumers Energy, who currently operates a facility downtown at 108 East Third Street, has offered to buy the 17 acres at $10,000 per acre or $170,000 and build a new 15,000 square foot regional service center on the property.
They announced that they plan to break ground early in 2014 with a completion date for the new building early in 2015.
Commissioners agreed Monday to set the $170,000 aside “in case it is needed.”
Bond payments will total $75,173.28 annually. Property tax revenue on the Consumers property is already estimated at $54,336.04 for winter taxes in 2012 and 2013 summer taxes are estimated at $53,588.29.
“The 2014 property taxes will go up as improvements are made (at the future park),” City Treasurer Steve Kingsbury said. He estimated that property values would double and then triple at the new park.
“This project wasn’t born two weeks ago,” Mayor Pat Humphrey said at the city meeting. “It has been in the works for a long, long time.” He continued, “I was kind of put out by the comment that this was ‘voodoo’ financing. We have been very transparent all through this.”
“We will be able to repay the bonds without any increases in city taxes or increases in the water and sewer bills,” Hibl said.
In another matter, the Commission voted to approve a request to be designated as a Participating Partner in the new Promise Zone Initiative.
In his agenda report Hibl said, “The Federal Government has initiated a new program (The Promise Zone Initiative) with the primary objective of ‘investing and partnering with high-poverty urban, rural, and tribal regions to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment and reduce violent crime.”
He said five regions will be selected (across the country) each year for the next four years…and “the selected regions and all participating partners within those regions will receive priority funding for all federal grants and related federal economic incentives for a period of ten years.”
Other business at the Clare City meeting Monday included:
*Recognition of Tom Quick for 25 years of service in the Department of Public Works.
*Approval of an annexation request from Megan and Cody West for property at 11417 Mission Road in Vernon Township.
*Appointment of Jason Koch to the Cemetery Advisory Board and Larry Wyman Jr., to the Tree Advisory Group.
*A report from Hibl that John Holland has resigned from his position as Water and Wastewater Superintendent. He has accepted a position as a Circuit Rider with the Michigan Rural Water Association. Hibl said he has appointed Deputy Superintendent Dale Clark in the interim Superintendent. The position has been posted, he said.
*News that the City has been approved for a Rotary International grant to help with the cost of new playground equipment for Pettit Park. Rotary International’s grant is for $2,000; Clare Rotary (who applied for the grant on the city’s behalf) will provide $2,000 and the city share for the equipment is $2,000, which will come from the City’s Parks and Recreation Fund. The new equipment will be installed in the spring, Hibl said.