LF Council denies Custom Roto Mold’s request for JOBZ transfer

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Phoenix Plastics LLC, located on 11th Street Northeast in Little Falls, ceased doing business earlier this year. The bank foreclosed on its building and its equipment.

Custom Roto Mold (CRM)  purchased the equipment from the bank at a reduced rate and is now doing operating in the building.

Phoenix Plastics had a business subsidy agreement with the city of Little Falls in the form of a Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ) initiative. JOBZ provides local and state tax exemptions to qualified companies that start up or expand in targeted areas of Greater Minnesota. JOBZ zones typically include acres for primarily manufacturing, value-added or high paying services businesses.

In August, CRM asked that the agreement between Phoenix Plastics and the city be amended and the JOBZ agreement be transferred to CRM.

A joint public hearing between the Little Falls Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the City Council was held Sept. 4, but no one from CRM attended the public hearing.

The EDA has met several times to discuss the request.Anderson, on behalf of the EDA, made several unsuccessful attempts to meet with CRM representatives to discuss their business plan, the direction the company plans to go and the building.

When the EDA met Oct. 26, and discussed the lack of communication by CRM with the city, it decided to recommend to the City Council that the transfer of the JOBZ from Phoenix Plastics to CRM Little Falls LLC, be denied.

In addition, the EDA recommended that the Phoenix Plastics JOBZ district be decertified. It noted in its recommendation that since Phoenix Plastics is no longer doing business and is not complying with the terms of the JOBZ agreement, it would be necessary for the city to cancel the agreement.

Anderson said Phoenix Plastics did not pay property taxes in 2010-11 or 2012 . The taxes will be paid by Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union, which now owns the building.

The Council voted unanimously to deny the JOBZ transfer to CRM. It also voted unanimously to decertify the Phoenix Plastics LLC JOBZ district.

A new JOBZ district may be created if a qualified business should apply and meet the criteria.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business Monday, during its work session, the Council:

• In response to a request that certain types of garage sales be regulated by the city, the Council requested the several residents to work together to come up with a resolution. The Council did not wish to regulate garage sales;

• Learned from Police Chief Greg Schirmers that the reason the Dam Festival parade runs north to south on First Street, as opposed to from the west side to the east side like the Santa Parade, is due to public safety and the blocking of Highway 27 (Broadway). Schirmers said the Santa Parade is shorter (20 minutes compared to one hour for the Dam Festival parade), although he would still  rather it did not cross the railroad tracks or tie up Highway 27.

During its regular meeting, the Council:

• Wrote off $21,548.07 in sewer usage fees charged to the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op (CMEC). City Administrator Dan Vogt said the amount was in dispute due to incorrect metering of sewage flows in December 2008, January and February 2009 and March 2010. He said CMEC paid all of their utility bills, except those in dispute. It was found, Vogt said, that the meter readings were in fact incorrect, registering 2.3 – 3 million gallons of water per month, as opposed to the actual 1.5 million gallons per month;

• Unanimously accepted by resolution several donations to the city including $1,500 from the American Legion; $80 from Business Machines Plus; $88.54 from the Flyer Athletic Boosters; $16,927 from the Golf Extravaganza Committee; $19.84 from Laura Booker; gifts totalling $952.50 from the Little Falls Exchange Club; gifts totalling $15,300 from the Little Falls Lindbergh Lions, gifts totalling $17,974.05 from the Little Falls Lions and $70 from Richard and Pat Tedford.Each donation was given for a specific purpose;

• Approved putting Eric Leisenheimer in the park maintenance worker 1 position with a 45-day probationary period;

• Approved updating the position description for a janitor and authorized an advertisement to fill the position;

• Approved the appointment of Adam Fjeld to the Youth Task Force and accepted the resignation of Noah and Jane Ellison from the Youth Task Force; Susan Paulson from the Sister City Committee and James Jarvinen from the Golf Advisory Board. Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem was authorized to find replacements for the unexpired terms;

• Approved the purchase of a used folder/inserter from Deatons Mailing Systems, St. Cloud, at a cost of $5,145 plus tax to be charged one quarter each to the water, wastewater, storm water and garbage recycling/budgets. The machine is used to fold and stuff utility billings for mailing;

• Approved the sale of two elk calves at a cost of $300 and $258;

• After hearing no public input, approved adopting a five-year capital plan as discussed at its Oct. 15 meeting and refinancing of city bonds to save the city about $200,000 per year, upon the advice of David Drown, the city’s financial adviser; and

• Approved purchasing the city employees and council members’ $10,000 – $15,000 life insurance from Sun Life Financial at a cost of 22 cents per $1,000 of coverage. The price is negotiated through the National Joint Powers Alliance, which Little Falls belongs to. This change is due to an increase of the life insurance premiums from Minnesota Life, which rose from 26 cents per $1,000 of coverage to 29 cents per $1,000.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be held Monday, Nov. 19, at City Hall, at 7:30 p.m. A work session begins at 6 p.m. in the conference room.