By Pat Maurer
Commissioners approved unanimously a property purchase option with Consumers Energy for 17 acres of the 60 acres recently deeded to the city for their proposed new industrial park on Colonville Road.
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.”
“This new service center will help employees work more efficiently and enhance service for years to come for the more than 38,000 electric customers served from this new facility,” said Michele Kirkland, vice president of energy operations for Consumers Energy.
At Monday’s 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 the new 15,000 square foot regional service center on the property.
According to Hibl’s agenda report, “Approximately three months ago, the City was approached by representatives of Consumers Energy seeking possible location of approximately 20 acres…within proximity of Clare to construct a new regional service center and …integrate its current Clare service center into the new regional service center. ..The City was asked to maintain confidentiality regarding the property search and any subsequent negotiations regarding a potential property acquisition.”
The property they will purchase is part of 200 acres along Colonville Road and was owned by the Northern Group until 60 of the acres were deeded to the city this month. All of the property, which is in Grant Township, is in the process of being transferred to the jurisdiction of the city as requested by the Northern Group as part of an Urban Cooperation Agreement developed five years ago between the city and township.
The City was notified just over a month ago 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. That had raised concerns with some city residents.
The purchase of the property and 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. “Consumer’s tax revenue will pay about two-thirds of the money needed up there,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Koch, who, along with former Mayor Al Demarest, has been adamantly against the industrial park infrastructure project and concerned over the funding for it, said, “I have to admit, I am very pleasantly shocked.” He said “If we wouldn’t have done this, we still would have to pay about $2.5 million just for a new water tower there. This is a wonderful thing.”
The water service area on the north side of the city could not support any more commercial building or more than four new residential units there, Hibl had said earlier.
Several Consumers Energy representatives were at the City meeting to outline their plans.
Area Manager and Northeast Team Leader Harmony Nowlin said, “We have incorporated the Gladwin office with the one in Clare and we are ‘busting’ at the seams.”
She continued, “We are looking forward to this project.” She said that they presently employ 40 to 45 “field, maintenance, garage and office” workers who will move to the new facility.
She said “We want to give Ken (Hibl) a lot of accolades. At our request he kept this confidential and was very helpful throughout the process [of searching for a suitable site]. He made this decision very easy for us.”
“Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2014 and the new building will be in operation by the first quarter of 2015,” the Consumers release said. “The Clare service center is part of a statewide 10-year building improvement plan being implemented by Consumers Energy to enhance customer service.”
The new building will feature a crew room, open office areas, fleet garage, storeroom, conference and break rooms, a locker and wellness room. The site will also include a pole yard and cold storage building. “As with other recently constructed Consumer Energy service center, the Clare building will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications,” their release stated. “These environmentally friendly attributes will include the building’s architectural design, lighting, plumbing, HVAC and electrical system, materials and resources.”
“Consumers Energy’s decision to locate in the new Clare Industrial Park is a shot in the arm for the Clare community and the entire mid-Michigan region. We’re very excited about this announcement, because it’s an indicator that our local economy is a regional player for business location decisions,” said Brian Anderson, president of the Middle-Michigan Development Corporation.