Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Council greenlights Lamppa expansion

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 10/12/17

TOWER— The city council gave a green light on Tuesday to moving forward on finalizing an agreement to help Lamppa Manufacturing expand production facilities for the company’s line of wood …

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Council greenlights Lamppa expansion

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TOWER— The city council gave a green light on Tuesday to moving forward on finalizing an agreement to help Lamppa Manufacturing expand production facilities for the company’s line of wood furnaces and sauna stoves, although the final terms of the city’s involvement remain to be determined.

The Tower Economic Development Authority has been working with Lamppas for several months, exploring how best to proceed with the expansion, which could significantly expand employment at the local manufacturer.

Options under consideration include a non-recourse loan from the IRRRB to TEDA, which would build the facility for lease to Lamppas, or a direct loan from the IRRRB to Lamppas, which would build the facility privately.

In either case, Lamppas have indicated an interest in a lot at the city’s industrial park on the west side of Hwy. 135. The company has also asked that the lot be staked as soon as possible.

City Engineer Matt Bolf noted that the industrial park lots exist only on paper, and that the site has yet to be platted. In drafting a plat, Bolf noted that the site has only two MnDOT-approved access points. That prompted some discussion, but no decision, on the need for platting of driveways or access roads into the site.

In other development-related action, the council approved interest-only loan payments for Tower Harbor Shores through June 1, 2018, but not before tempers flared. Mayor Josh Carlson took issue with a letter from project manager Orlyn Kringstad requesting the loan revision, which suggested that the “city’s inability to determine and define the location/placement of Harbor Drive” had delayed the project’s start. In the letter, originally addressed to TEDA, Kringstad stated that the delay will push the start of construction to spring of 2018, adding to the project’s expense.

“This, frankly, pisses me off,” said Carlson, arguing that the city has faced too much criticism for delays on the project. Carlson said he didn’t appreciate what he called a “dagger” being tossed at the city along with a request for a loan adjustment. He questioned Engineer Bolf on the subject, who agreed that the delays were created by both parties. “To me it’s been a process of both parties trying to agree on the details. I wouldn’t blame 100 percent on either party,” said Bolf.

Kringstad agreed that the parties have worked amicably to get the project started, but said the lack of legal descriptions for the lots have prevented Tower Harbor Shores from executing purchase agreements. “That’s all true,” responded Bolf, “they can’t execute their purchase agreements. But the legal descriptions today are different than they were a week ago.” Bolf had earlier noted that the parties had recently agreed to a significant realignment of the town homes that will significantly reduce wetland impacts and likely reduce construction costs for both parties.

“It’s taken time,” said Carlson. “It’s a unique project, but it certainly does not allow either of us to throw daggers at one another. I have no problem with TEDA’s recommendation. We’ve put a lot of work into it. We aren’t going to cancel it now.”

The council then agreed to the request.

Kringstad tried to tone down the discussion, stressing the need to continue to work productively. “I apologize for that dagger, as you say, and I thank you for the extension,” he said.

Continuing with development matters, the council approved a recommendation from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission that the maximum number of lots that could be allowed in the RV park proposed by Dave Rose is 20, although City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith indicated that number could still be reduced as all applicable rules are applied. “I’m not promising 20 sites, just saying that’s a starting point. It may be less than that.”

Rose also presented his completed Environmental Assessment Worksheet to the city for review. Keith said that she will forward the document to SEH for review as soon as Rose has placed funds to cover the cost of the review into escrow.

In other matters, the council discussed how to respond to a letter from Breitung Township, indicating continued support for merging the city and township fire departments even though interest in a joint emergency services facility has diminished. “I’m for it,” said Councilor Brooke Anderson. “I would still like to be joined with them if we could make it happen.” Councilor Kevin Fitton asked about the original purpose of the merger. “It was all about space,” said Keith. Since the merger, however, the township has obtained the now-vacated MINOS surface building, eliminating the township’s need for additional space.

“If the original issue was about space, why would we want to continue the joint fire department?” Fitton asked.

But Breitung supervisor Greg Dostert, who was in the audience, noted there were economic advantages to the combined department and indicated that the township is likely still interested in a joint fire station, just not the expanded facility that some city officials were advocating. “The firemen in Breitung agree 100 percent that a merger is necessary with or without a building,” said Dostert. “I think this is an opportunity we should not let go by.”

Fitton agreed that the city should make a decision soon on how to proceed, but suggested the issue be tabled until a full council can weigh the issue. Councilor Matich was absent from the meeting and Mayor Carlson arrived late, not in time for the fire department discussion. The council agreed to table the matter for now.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a bid of $4,900 from Vermilion Painting for repainting the interior of the civic center, using grant dollars raised by the Main Street Committee.

• Approved a resolution drafted by the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools opposing a proposed change by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the regulation of sulfates.

• Approved a supplemental agreement with SEH to cover costs associated with the harbor project. Bolf indicated that some of the expenditures may be reimbursable from future grant funds and that separating those expenses into a separate project account makes it easier to seek those funds.

• Approved a financial letter of intent and bond resolution related to anticipated expenditures for a sewer reconstruction and a sewer line extension to Hoodoo Point Campground.

• Denied a request for an adjustment in the size of a hangar at the airport due to encroachment on required setbacks.

• Approved the hiring of Hunter Gilbert as a new emergency medical responder.

• Accepted two donations from the Bois Forte tribal government, including $2,000 for the ambulance and $7,500 for the fire department.

• Approved a transportation partnership grant resolution with MnDOT.

• Referred Orlyn Kringstad to Minnesota Power to address his request for a light at the entrance to the Marjo Motel.

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