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Rushford council approves loans for six businesses

Fri, Nov 30th, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - So far, distributing the state flood relief money to damaged Rushford businesses is proving to be as challenging as securing the funds in the first place.

At its regular meeting last Monday, November 26, the Rushford city council was faced with considering approval of the first batch of Disaster Business Assistance Loans as recommended by the Rushford Economic Development Authority (EDA) for a total amount of $2,289,860. Hired consultant Chuck Pettipiece was on hand to present the applications for the council's approval.

While all six loans were technically approved by the council, the process was surrounded with a swirl of questions that were not resolved.

Mayor Ladewig was the first to express discomfort with the fact that four of the loans were for money in substantial excess of what the businesses had estimated they would need in the survey conducted by Pettipiece. The report itself reads that at the current rate of requested distribution, which has averaged $197,322.83 more than the surveyed amount per business, only 39 more businesses could receive aid while it is believed up to 70 more businesses will apply for aid.

The council seemed uncomfortable with what Pettipiece described as a "first come, first served" approach.

"If you come to the end of this line of recipients and the money is gone, that's not what I'd call fair distribution," Ladewig said.

Laura Deering asked what the EDA had thought of this current batch of applications, and Pettipiece responded that the EDA had not yet seen the spreadsheet currently before the council.

Deering said that her understanding and hope had been that the EDA would closely review the requests and numbers and make detailed recommendations to the council.

City Administrator Windy Block commented that he could understand the concern (with the currently requested amounts) but cautioned that these six businesses were all vital to the city's future and it would be a bad idea "to hold any of them back at this point."

Block also pointed out that these six businesses were committed to bringing back the same number of pre-flood jobs at the same wages.

The council voted to approve the requests one at a time; all passed with Laura Deering voting opposed on those that exceeded their estimated losses in Pettipiece's survey. Council member Larry Johnson joined her in voting "no" on the final request.

After all the votes, Block asked Deering whether she'd clarify the reason for her opposing votes.

"As uncomfortable as this is for me (voting opposed)," Deering replied. "I think it's going to be more uncomfortable in the future saying 'there's no more money' (to some businesses)."

Pettipiece offered that the businesses approved would still be subject to another close review of their applications, and that they'd have to closely verify all recovery expenses with invoices and receipts.

The six businesses to have their applications approved by the council were Dahl's Auto Works, Nordic Lanes, Tri-County Publishing, Linda Horihan, Inc., Hammell Equipment, and Horihan Properties.

In other business the council-

• awarded a winning bid to Pierce Fire Apparatus for $127,799 for the replacement of a tanker truck and fire rescue apparatus, as recommended by fire chief Mike Ebner.

• approved Block's request to hold a special meeting Thursday, November 29, 5:00 p.m., for the sole purpose of discussing strategies for handling existing publically-owned buildings in light of both the pre-flood Redevelopment Grant and post-flood FEMA relief for the city. The buildings to be discussed include the Municipal Liquor Store, the Tenborg Community Center and the former Dreamin' Horses building, all of which sustained significant damage in the August flood.

• approved the proposal from Yaggy Colby Associates to update the community's Comprehensive Plan for a base price of $15,850 plus an estimated $1,000 reimbursable expenses. Joel B. West was present to make the proposal and to inform the council that the firm's price represents a 14.8% discount as well as a 33% discount in the reimbursables. In addition, the firm will donate $1,500 (approximately 10 hours of time) for its Senior Planner to assist the community in working with Tim Penney of Southeast Minnesota Initiative Fund as they work with the Village of Rushford "toward addressing issues of common concern regarding infrastructure and growth."

• received, with thanks, donations from AgStar ($5,000) and the Rushford Women's Club ($1,500), both designated to go to the fire department.

• closed the meeting to discuss the annual performance review of the City Administrator.

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