CHEDA Board approves B3 grant, considers collateral for Epitome Energy extension

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority board approved one of two B3 (Building Better Business) grant applications at their meeting this week with the second request deemed ineligible due to the application being turned in after the business’ project had already started. RBJ’s Restaurant had requested $4,000 to assist with their parking lot paving project, but the work had already been started by the paving company when the application was turned in. This was in part due to the paving company’s schedule opening up to allow time to complete the project before the cold weather sets in.

    Mayor Dale Stainbrook admitted the board had to follow the guidelines of the application process otherwise they’d “open up a can of worms” if they didn’t. Ward 6 City Council member and CHEDA board member Dylane Klatt said RBJ’s is a great community partner and wondered if there were any other projects they’d be applying for. CHEDA supervisor Theresa Tahran said she spoke with RBJ’s owner Kim Samuelson and they were getting ready for holiday food orders and didn’t have any other projects scheduled, but have considered a different point-of-sale system and different exterior benches which they could apply for a grant for later on.

    The board did approve $3,000 for A&L Auto Body Shop, LLC of Crookston to purchase additional equipment like jacks and lifts to better serve their clients. Owner Antonio Romero-Meyo is also a graduate of Northland Technical Community College allowing him to apply for a larger amount. Currently Romero-Meyo is the only employee of the shop, but is looking for experienced employees. He also did not receive any of the Polk County Resiliency Grants or other types of grants due to COVID, the request noted.

EPITOME ENERGY LOAN EXTENSION

    The CHEDA board voted to extend the $250,000 loan for Epitome Energy to September 30, 2022 with the intent that CEO Dennis Egan would come back to them at their December 21 meeting with documentation of collateral for the board to consider. The initial loan agreement from CHEDA had no collateral in place and, with an extension, City Attorney Corky Reynolds suggested Epitome provide collateralization to give the city a level of reassurance.

    “There was no security for the original loan agreement and at that time the city and CHEDA wanted to offer that incentive,” Reynolds explained. “In addition it shall be forgiven if four things are accomplished by Epitome and those have not been accomplished.”

    The four items in the loan agreement that Epitome would need to accomplish to have the loan forgiven include having all reports and permits attained by Epitome, obtaining all permits necessary for the construction and operation of the facility, acquiring the property the facility will be built on within two years of the loan closing date, and commencing construction of the facility.

    Ward 1 City Council member and CHEDA board member Kristi Jerde felt having collateral for a project of Epitome’s size should be considered “common practice” and felt that since Epitome has broken escrow some type of collateral would allow CHEDA and the city to have “some type of protection of our constituent’s money” plus it showed a “good faith effort on Epitome” and showed Epitome had some “skin in the game.”  

    When asked his thoughts about the collateral request, Egan, who was in attendance at the board meeting, said he was “surprised” and had just been made aware of the request the Friday before. He added that when he came before the CHEDA board two years ago collateral was not requested, but it was on the table now and he felt things were changing “after the fact.”

    “We’ve dealt with the COVID issue, dealt with the fall of 2019, other issues stretched it out, I’m surprised we’re now going back and looking at some type of collateralization,” Egan explained. “I haven’t had time to look at it and how it would function; haven’t had time to talk to our financial folks or my attorney or anything.”

    Mayor Stainbrook later asked Egan if he was comfortable coming back to the CHEDA board at their next regular meeting in December with options and Egan confirmed he was.

    City Administrator Amy Finch said this was not the first time that collateralization for the Epitome Energy project has come up and it was in the city’s professional opinion that the CHEDA board ask for collateral to go along with the extension request.

City of Crookston