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County sinks more money in airport restaurant

By Rosemary Horvath
Correspondent

Clare County Commissioners bit off a bigger chunk of the Airport Restaurant when a majority reluctantly agreed Wednesday to reimburse the new tenant $39,608 for an unexpected equipment installation and partial kitchen bump out ordered by the county’s own building department.

Tenant Gail and Pete Peterson will reopen the business next week at the county-owned building 4557 N. Clare Ave., Harrison, that primarily services air traffic at the county airport.

Commissioners seemed to be taken aback when county Administrator Tracey Byard relayed a request for reimbursement.

A lease agreement reached November 2013 between the Petersons indicated the tenant would pay for new equipment except a hood suppression system would be the county’s responsibility as building owner, presuming the hood would stay with the building.

The county calculated spending around $20,000 as their only share.

So far, according to Byard, the Petersons have spent $54,000 upgrading the building and premises.

Last year the county also guaranteed the tenants a grant of $30,000 through Community Development.

Community Development director Lori Ware explained the hood originally purchased “wasn’t going to work,” and a replacement required enlarging the kitchen space.

The old 10 by 14 foot space was replaced with an addition five by 18 feet. Other expenses went for fire suppression system, architectural drawings, gas line damage repair, fee for an electrical contractor, among other things.

Commissioners Dale Majewski who eventually voted against paying the reimbursement posed the question: is the county in the restaurant business?

Lease payments from the restaurant underwrite expense of running an airport, so the question is, Commissioner Lynn Grim said, do we want an airport?

The airport is an asset to the county, countered board Chairman Rick LaBoda, adding the restaurant is an asset to the airport. Pilots stop in Harrison because of the convenient restaurant location.

Commissioner Jim Gelios was disappointed the Petersons had not come to the county once they learned of the impending expense related to the hood. “When they found out they should have come to us,” he said.

He went on to say if the county withheld the reimbursement then both the county and the tenant would lose their investments.

After further discussion, commissioners agreed over the three-year lease period they will investigate options for retaining ownerships of the airport and restaurant, or whether either one can be put up for sale.

After the meeting, Majewski explained his no vote was based on not having details about the reimbursement ahead of time to review. “This was just dropped on us.”

A tenant who the county leased the restaurant to in 1994 reclaimed the kitchen hood which was her property when the county did not renew the lease last year with her. The county was surprised to learn at the time the original tenant had subleased the restaurant to another party in 2009 and that tenant got behind on lease payments and tax bills.

In other business matters, the board:

NAMED Jerry Becker, emergency management director, to work with Central Michigan Electronics Recycling on establishing a collection site for receiving unwanted computer towers, lap tops, cell phones, Christmas lights, printers and copiers, and just about anything electronic. Becker suggested the former transit building that the sheriff’s department uses for storage.

RESURRECTED a web committee to review why the county’s web host eJourney of Gladwin has crashed rendering the website outdated. Departments are unable to add new material although email has not been impacted. Sheryl Judd, the county’s web manager the last four years, and Nick Loomis of Digital Image Technology Solution of Clare both submitted proposals to oversee the website.

AUTHORIZED the animal shelter to hire two part-time employees and seek assistance from the court system to assign community service enrollees to the animal shelter.

MET Nancy Petrie from MSU Extension who talked about the SNAP-Ed program that teaches nutrition value, food preparation, budgeting and ways to stretch dollars and prepare meals at home. This program is designed to counter obesity, hunger and poor food choices.

NOTED from Clerk Pam Mayfield the Supreme Court of Michigan completed a circuit court procedural audit of Clare and Gladwin circuit court clerks, the first one since 1999. Her office “faired pretty well,” she said.

NOTED from Treasurer Jenny Beemer Fritzinger 5,000 delinquent tax notices will be mailed in June. A Clare-Gladwin land auction is set for Sept 2 at the Doherty Hotel in Clare where Clare will have 120 properties listed. Details will be in the treasurer’s office June 15. Michigan Department of Natural Resources will add 289 acres in Winterfield Township in vicinity of Cranberry Lake to its land ownership.

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