By Pat Maurer
In his report to the Clare City Commission Monday evening, City Manager Ken Hibl said the city has applied for, and will know “within the next two to three weeks” if Clare will be awarded a Community Development Block Grant to upgrade Colonville Road from the US-127 overpass east to near the Eberhart Road intersection.
“MEDC has indicated its support of the project,” Hibl said.
The road improvements would reconstruct and widen the road to three lanes for easier access to the new Clare North Industrial Park that is scheduled to begin construction this year.
Clare City took over ownership of the road in January.
The City was notified last fall that an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant had been awarded to the city totaling $2,680,860 towards the estimated $4,468,100 cost of building a new water tower and developing infrastructure (sewer and water) on the 60 acres for a new industrial park.
The remainder of the costs, about $1.7 million, would have to be paid with city funds. Of that amount the city has about $700,000 available and would have to borrow the remaining $1 million through a bond issue. The Northern Group donated the sixty acres earmarked for the Clare Industrial Park North to the City earlier this fall.
Consumers Energy has already purchased twenty acres of the new Industrial Park and is planning to build a $3 to $4 million service center in the park, closing its facility downtown.
The purchase of the property plus city property and personal taxes captured through a tax-increment financing program would pay back the bond issue payments for the next ten years, said City Treasurer Steve Kingsbury last October. “Consumer’s tax revenue will pay about two-thirds of the money needed up there,” he said.
With funding in line for the new Industrial Park, the City began working on raising funds for the needed road improvements, and recently applied for a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
At Monday’s meeting, Hibl explained the funding mechanism the city is working on to upgrade the road to an all-weather roadway from the north Clare exit ramp of US-127 east to within 600 feet of the Eberhart Road intersection.
He said, “The estimated cost of this project is approx. $800K. If we go forward with the project, $600K will be funded by CDBG funds; $100K will be contributed by Consumers Energy, CNG, & Northern Logistics ($33K & change from each); and the City will contribute $100K. In return for the City’s $100K contribution, we’ve been negotiating with Consumers Energy asking them to assume the costs of running 3-phase electric power to the new IP (an estimated cost of approx. $100K). These are costs we (the City) would have had to assume as the EDA grant for our new industrial park does not contribute to any utility costs outside the geographic boundaries of the new park. In return for Consumers agreement to run the 3-phase electric to the park at no cost to us, we’ve told them we’d ask the City Commission’s consideration of yet-to-be determined concessions for water and sewer connection fees at their new service center.”
Hibl continued, “The award of the $600K in CDBG funds requires a commitment from Northern Logistics to make a $1.5M investment in the expansion/growth of their business AND the creation of 60 new jobs – all of which must be accomplished within two years.”
Hibl stressed, “All of this is tentative at this point. We currently have many wheels in motion in an attempt to make this all work by partnering with multiple entities. And right now, it appears everyone is willing and wants to be a part of the partnership. But many i’s have to be dotted and t’s crossed before this becomes a reality. We should know within the next two to three weeks whether the grant application will be approved. At that point the City Commission still retains the prerogative to accept or deny the grant.”
After a long, cold winter, the economic forecast for the City seems to be looking up. The City Commission held Public Hearings and approved three requests for Industrial Facility [tax] Exemptions Monday evening.
The first was for a 50 percent tax exemption for 12 years for $232,850 requested by Robotic Welded Parts for new Mazak HCN 4003 manufacturing equipment installed in September.
The second approved 50 percent, twelve-year tax abatement request came from JD Metalworks Inc., for $288,182 in manufacturing equipment. The equipment – a Haas Lathe and Machining Center, a bar feeder and a Kaesar Air Compressor – was installed in September and October.
The third request for a 50 percent, 12-year Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption came from 123 Investments LLC for the constructions costs of a new manufacturing building valued at $256,680. The building property holder is Robotic Welded Parts.
Other business at the City’s regular meeting included:
*A presentation by youngster Alan Winter representing a local group about a proposed new Skateboard/BMX Park at Shamrock Park. The board voted to support the project with has a $100,000 goal and would provide Pro MX Series certified equipment for a park. The location of the new park would be just north of the playground and would be used for Hockey in the winter months. A fundraiser bake sale will be held March 9 at Jay’s Sporting Goods.
*A resolution of support was approved for the Michigan Council of Governments.
*The Commission approved an extension of City Manager Ken Hibl’s contract through 2017 with an amendment granting him an additional 80 hours of personal time each year.
*Budget amendments were approved to establish accounts for a new LDFA (Local Development Financial Authority) for development and construction of the Clare North Industrial Park.
*Although he was not at the meeting, former Planning Commissioner Jack Hofweber was honored for three years of service to the City on the Planning Commission.
*City Commissioners approved the sale of an unused Airport fuel tank for $2,500.
*Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman introduced Sam Eberhardt as the new Clare Assistant Fire Chief.
*Bills totaling $28,251.59 were approved.