Business looking to expand

ESCANABA – A request for Delta County to apply for a loan on behalf of a local business expansion project has been tabled until its next meeting.

Escanaba City Controller Mike Dewar addressed the Delta County Board of Commissioners about the project during Tuesday’s statutory board meeting.

According to Dewar, Escanaba business owner Tony Harris of Fleet Maintenance is looking to expand his local business to property on 20th Avenue North and Sheridan Road.

“He’s identified a site out across from the old city compost site where he wants to build a new building, which will allow him to expand and hire additional people,” explained Dewar.

The project has been approved by Escanaba City Council and the city of Escanaba’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, which promotes revitalization, redevelopment, and reuse of contaminated property through eligible environmental activities or tax increment financing (TIF).

According to Dewar, the project has been approved for a TIF reimbursement plan and is now at a point where some Brownfield Redevelopment work must be done to prepare the site for construction and building.

“We went to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which has a program specifically for this,” he said. “They lend out money and are repaid through the TIF reimbursement Brownfield process…The DEQ indicated that the city wasn’t eligible to apply for the loan because, in their minds, they feel we’re a responsible party for the substances that are located on that property, which is primarily ash.”

Instead, DEQ suggested both parties approach Delta County about applying for the loan on behalf of Fleet Maintenance.

The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has asked for up to $567,000 for the project, though they are proposing a 15-year, $450,000 loan from the DEQ, since they believe they can cut back on original cost estimates.

Should Delta County enter an agreement with Fleet Maintenance and the city of Escanaba, the county would be required to apply for the loan, administer the loan, pay out the funds as required, account for the money, and prepare all necessary forms and grant documents. However, the city and Fleet Maintenance are trying to set up the process so the county would not be exposed to any repayment risk.

“The DEQ would require that Delta County guarantee the repayments of that loan in order to protect the county,…basically stating that the Brownfield Authority, using the TIF money, will make payments to the county in order for them to fulfill their obligation with the state of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,” said Dewar.

Board Vice-Chair Mary Harrington felt the project was good for the community, but wanted more information before coming to a decision.

“I’m glad to see a business wanting to expand and I think that we need to do everything we can as a board to make that happen,” she said. “However, I would like to postpone a decision on this until our meeting next week and see if our attorney could look the documents over. When you talk about $500,000, I guess I have to be sure in my mind that the county’s interests financially are protected.”

The board unanimously approved tabling the matter until next week’s board meeting by a vote of 4 to 0. Commissioner Ryan Holm was absent from the meeting.

In other business, the board:

accepted a 2013 millage report and set the annual millage rate related to convention facility and cigarette tax revenues. The board chose to return the millage rate to the maximum allowable amount of 7.2817 mills, with the amount due from the convention facility and cigarette tax revenues both divided according to their required formulas.

accepted the 2013 apportionment report, which breaks down millage rates for local units, school districts, Bay College, and the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD.

approved several contracts between Delta County and its townships to provide zoning services. The townships will pay 75 cents per capita multiplied by their population for these zoning services on a yearly basis. The two-year contracts expire on April 30, 2015.

authorized an easement to the Delta Conservation District for installing electricity upgrades at Fuller Park.

accepted the first loan payment from the Delta Conservation District in the amount of $17,584.58. The board granted an up to $200,000 loan to the DCD in early 2012 for county park infrastructure improvements, to be paid over 10 years.

approved the following appointments to county committees and board: Gordon Hermes to the Delta Area Transit Authority (DATA) Board and Gerald Smith to the Department of Human Services Board.