County may help with utility extension

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December 13, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Allen County commissioners said they will decide next Tuesday whether to help Humboldt extend utilities to a 24.8-acre industrial tract northeast of town.
Humboldt Administrator Cole Herder appealed the case before commissioners Tuesday morning.
Commission Chairman Jim Talkington proposed commissioners make available $335,000, half of what an engineering study shows the utility work will cost.
Commissioner Jerry Daniels, who represents the Humboldt area, was amenable, but agreed with Commissioner Tom Williams, as did Talkington, that a decision of such magnitude should not occur on the quick.
“I’m not opposed, but I want time to think about it,” Williams said.
Extension of utilities is estimated at $672,500. Herder said he was confident if half that amount were in hand, the U.S. Economic Development Administration would approve a 50-50 match grant, to complete financing.
The utility extension would enable development of the tract, owned by HUGRO, a Humboldt economic development group. HUGRO would sell the land, and anticipate reinvesting proceeds for similar speculative purposes.
A developer has promised to purchase the 24.8 acres, with a national equipment company already on board to build a center on 5 acres to service heavy construction equipment, with an additional five acres reserved for expansion. The developer and the company remain unnamed. Herder said he was assured the remaining 14.8 acres would be put to commercial use.
“I know one company is very interested,” in the additional land, Herder said.
Talkington asked about other possible development in the area. Herder said land was available and some preliminary discussions had occurred; having utilities nearby could prompt more interest.
Herder has devoted much of the past month seeking means to finance the utility work, including a Community Development Block Grant. The route to a CDBG is rife with obstacles, he added, in large measure because the project doesn’t fit well with such funding. “I backed away from that,” he said, but is confident of success in pursuit of an EDA grant.
“The company wants to get started soon,” with the construction phase expected to take 12 weeks.
The company would service large equipment, such as bulldozers, off-road trucks and huge earth-movers. Having two cement plants, Monarch and Ash Grove, within sight of the tract, is an advantage — to company and customer — as well as being within a stone’s throw of U.S. 169 and not far from highways 54 and 400.
Commissioners said they did not perceive the funding to Humboldt as bypassing the county’s newly formed economic development committee as a misstep. The committee will deal with businesses, industries and nonprofits; the Allen County-Humboldt deal would be between two governing entities.
Allen County has $2 million or so sequestered in reserves, fattened by the Enbridge pipeline and pumping station near Humboldt having swollen the county’s appraised valuation by better than $35 million. Economic development is a focus of commissioners in regard to the reserves.
Herder said if he were to spend all of Humboldt’s available cash and reserves, totaling about $600,000, “we’d be out of money by February.”
In a related matter, the committee formed to help commissioners decide whether to make loans or award grants to aid new or existing businesses and nonprofits will consider its first two applications Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the courthouse conference room. The committee will make recommendations; commissioners will decide.
Applicants that met a Dec. 1 deadline are the Mildred Store and the group that wants to purchase Stub’s Market in Moran and convert it to a food cooperative. At a date yet to be decided applications from Bolling Meats and the technology center southeast of LaHarpe will be reviewed. Those two came in after Dec. 1.

OTHERWISE, commissioners:
— Were told by Karen Gilpin, representing Iola Rotary, about members’ dedication to recycling. Rotary, at behest of the Register’s Emerson Lynn in 1995, began collecting and recycling newspapers and magazines in concert with Allen County, as advantage to keep waste paper from filling the county landfill at a quicker rate. Waste paper is collected every two months, and in the past five years $50,500 worth — 721 tons — has been sold for conversion to insulation; $39,000 has gone to participating nonprofits.
Rotary has expanded its recycling to glass, plastic and cardboard. To increase its reach, the club is pursuing a building, where non-paper recyclables may be sorted, with trash excluded. Commissioners gave their unanimous support to Rotary’s effort to attract a $25,000 grant. The county ferries trailers Rotarians fill with paper to the insulation company in Wellsville.
— A trustee position on the Allen County Regional Hospital board remains unfilled. County Counselor Alan Weber said any Allen Countian may apply for the seat by contacting him at 365-1410. Trustees meet at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month. Members also are expected to devote about two hours each month to committee work. Terms are for three years, and are limited to two consecutive terms.

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