By Timothy Cox
Celina city officials want more time to consider whether to spend $375,000 to relocate Alumacast Inc. to the Grand Lake Industrial Park and give the company 5.75 acres of land there for $1.
As part of an overall redevelopment plan for the former Mersman Furniture Co. complex, which takes up three blocks on the west side of town, city community development consultant Kent Bryan has proposed relocating Alumacast and acquiring its 2-acre site at the Mersman area.
As part of the complex deal, the city would move the existing 400-by-40-foot Alumacast metal building to the city sewage plant to convert it into a sludge storage facility. That would allow the eventual elimination of the open sludge lagoons along U.S. 127 between the highway and the lake.
The plan also calls for the city to apply for a Clean Ohio grant for $1.75 million to demolish existing buildings and perform environmental cleanup of the Mersman site for redevelopment. All the buildings in that area are included in the redevelopment effort except a former cannery now owned by The Daily Standard Publishing Inc. Except for the Standard-owned building and Alumacast, the remaining structures are owned by Brickyard Investments, a division of Rockford Construction Services.
City council members meeting in special session Monday authorized only the grant application. They passed first readings of ordinances approving the Alumacast relocation payment and purchase, but clearly are hesitant to pull the trigger on such a large expenditure. "I don't know where this is going to go. It's going to be a tough debate," Bryan said.
City council members are expected to renew discussion on the issue at their next council meeting.
The relocation payment to Alumacast was erroneously reported in Monday's edition of The Daily Standard. The $175,000 figure represents just the purchase price and did not include an additional $200,000 in relocation compensation.
Bryan justified the payment by noting the company operates several large metal presses that will be expensive to move to the industrial park.
In addition to the $375,000 and the virtually free industrial park land, Alumacast also would get free utility hook-ups and a 15-year tax abatement.
In return for the incentives, Alumacast would agree to create 10 new full-time jobs and Alumacast President Rick Kaylor also would agree to annex another business he owns, General Rental on Staeger Road, into the city.
Construction of Alumacast's proposed 20,000-square-foot facility at the industrial park would be about a $550,000 investment, Bryan said.
If council members do not follow through with the redevelopment effort, Bryan said Alumacast likely would continue to operate at the existing site and the rest of the complex would remain as it is today. Some city officials also speculated that Alumacast could be lured away by another community if the deal falls through.
Councilman Ed Jeffries questioned the reasoning behind the proposal to sell Alumacast $140,000 worth of land through the city Community Improvement Corp. for just $1. Jeffries asked if other land there also would be given away.
"If we want to be competitive and create jobs, I would guess so," Bryan said.
On the other end of the deal, the city would have to spend an estimated $550,000 making modifications to the sewage plant to reroute sludge to a new facility. That expense also includes moving and modifying the existing Alumacast building to the wastewater plant.
Counting the $375,000 acquisition of Alumacast's property, the city would be on the hook for about $925,000. Based on current appraisals, the city could recoup $375,000 or so directly from the sale of the Alumacast property and the sludge lagoon land. That would leave the city with a final expense of $550,000, which would be offset by new development, jobs and taxes, city officials said.
A private, non-profit development entity being formed by Bryan has proposed converting a vacant Mersman site into a senior living center and a neighborhood of starter homes.