In the wake of just over a month’s worth of various discussions and consideration, a property sale of $1 from the city of Merrill to Northcentral Technical College will soon come to fruition.
Tuesday night, the Merrill Common Council considered an agenda item recommending a General Fund loan in the amount of $100,000 to Tax Increment District (TID) No. 11.
The funds would be used for the purchase of 4.5 acres of property on West Taylor Street from Russ Davis Wholesale, and then transferred to NTC for the price of $1. The college would then use the property for the development of a new commercial driver training center in Merrill.
The item came as a recommendation from the January meeting of the Personnel and Finance Committee.
Discussion of the matter was minimal Tuesday night.
Second district Alderman Pete Lokemoen was the lone voice of discussion; immediately voicing opposition to the matter based on contact from an estimated 30 community members, who also voiced opposition to the property purchase.
The council proceeded forward with approval by a 7-1 vote.
The purchase concept stems from last month’s meetings of the city’s Redevelopment Authority and Common Council.
As a result of those meetings, the purchase of the property was approved based on funding being provided by TID #11.
During the January RDA meeting, mayor Bill Bialecki advocated for the purchase.
“(NTC President) Dr. (Lori) Weyers came to me some time ago with the desire to place this facility in Merrill,” Bialecki said. “We went to Russ Davis Corporate and asked if they would donate the land. They stated they would sell for $100,000. We got back to Dr. Weyers and she decided that was beyond their budget and the project wouldn’t happen.”
During those meetings, consideration was also given to projections from Weyers of an estimated $100,000 to be generated annually in direct and indirect economic impact for the Merrill area, as a result of the training center.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the city to show some reciprocity for all NTC has done for us,” Bialecki stated during the Jan. 3 RDA meeting. “It’s not going to do anything for the tax base, but it will bring people to train in Merrill much the same as the safety course has done now.”
The idea of a General Fund loan for the purchase was raised during the Jan. 24 meeting of the city’s Personnel and Finance Committee.
The measure gained unanimous approval, following information from city Finance Director Kathy Unertl of TID No. 11 not having generated any revenue since its inception last May, hence being unable to fund the purchase.
As part of the resolution approved by the council Tuesday night, the city’s Community Development Economic Development Fund, originally from a Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) grant to the City of Merrill, is receiving annual loan payments of about $30,000 and could serve as an alternate source.
“At this point TID 11 has no money, but will start generating revenue with the development of the Premier Apartments (ongoing project near the MARC),” Unertl stated, during the Jan. 24 Personnel and Finance Committee meeting. “Over all three phases of the Premier project, extra increment generated could cover several things. It is possible over the life span of TID 11, there will be other development to cover this $100,000 purchase.”
During that meeting, Unertl recommended interim financing for the project in the form of a short term general fund loan, in the event TID 11 doesn’t generate adequate revenue in five years.
“Down the line we have a potential pot of money to be available,” she added.
According to a statement given by Weyers at the January RDA meeting, she indicated the project would come in two phases; with structures for classroom space to come first and a track to come later, with construction to begin as early as June.
The project would take an estimated two budget cycles to be finished.
Russ Davis Wholesale will continue to operate its produce distribution business on the three parcels the company would retain north of Commerce Street.
In other matters Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a site plan for a sign at the Tall Pines Community Garden to be located at the corner of Sixth Street and Memorial Drive.
The council also unanimously approved development agreements with the David Cooper Agency, NTC and Horizon Development Group.
The David Cooper Agency agreement entails a purchase of city-owned vacant property located at 900 E. First St. Development would consist of a commercial building, with a $40,000 development incentive from TID No. 6 for construction of said building.
The NTC agreement entails property transfer to NTC for the development of the CDL training center for the sale price of $1 and is projected to generate two new jobs. Truck driver training will also be made locally available as part of the agreement.
The Horizon Development agreement entails the transfer of property of the former Fox Point Sportswear site, for the price of $1. Horizon Development will then proceed with construction of multi-family housing on the site.