By DAVID GREEN
The Palm Plastics expansion project took a couple steps forward Monday night with city council’s decision to accept a CDBG grant and sell property in the industrial park.
As announced last week, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved a $2.9 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to Morenci.
Two million dollars is described as an Economic Development Job Creation Direct Grant to assist Palm Plastics with equipment purchases.
The remaining $900,000 will be used to develop Hammontree Industrial Drive, a north-south road in the industrial park to connect with the existing Skyline Drive.
Council members took the next step in the CDBG grant process by voting to file an application for the funds.
Council also voted to sell approximately 20 acres of land in the industrial park to Palm Plastics at a cost of $3,000 an acre. The city will have the first option at buying the land back at the same price if construction has not begun within 24 months.
The land includes all of the Michigan property in the park south of Skyline Drive. The land surrounds the property where a cellular communications tower stands, but Palm will guarantee access to the tower via a road that SBA Network Services will maintain.
During a public hearing about the Palm Plastics project, the company’s chief operating officer Terry Brandl said that a proposed 70,000 square foot second building would provide space for 14 injection molding machines to create items for Palm’s consumer products line.
A truck staging area will be built between the old and new building to alleviate trucks parking on industrial park roads.
“I want to let you know how much we appreciate your efforts in this,” Palm president Jeffery Owen told council. “I hope this attracts more people to the industrial park.”
“Thanks for sticking it out in Morenci,” said mayor Doug Erskin. “I know you had many other offers.”
Owen said it was the right thing to do, especially for the employees.
ENGINEERING—Councilor Keith Pennington asked Owen about a timetable for his project and where the city’s road project would fit in.
Owen said he intends to select a developer in November and wants to have the engineering work completed by the end of the year. He expects to see earth moving in the spring.
Pennington said his committee spoke about seeking bids for the road project over the winter.
He suggested that council should consider hiring Associated Engineers of Adrian for the city’s work. Morenci resident Scott Merillat is a partner in the company and he provided considerable help several years ago when he was a council member.
City supervisor Barney Vanderpool said Merillat voluntarily did a lot of after-hours consulting and was easy to contact since he lives in town.
Councilor Tracy Schell agreed that a local person would be beneficial, but she suggested seeking a proposal from Jones and Henry, the firm the city has used in recent projects.
Merillat recently offered a proposal that was much cheaper than a Jones and Henry price from a year ago, but council agreed to obtain an updated proposal from the firm.