Textron seeks extension to requirement

by April Scheinoha

Looking for a job? Textron is looking for 100 employees at its Thief River Falls facility. At its meeting Tuesday, July 17, the Thief River Falls City Council heard about the employment opportunity and approved holding a public hearing related to a request from Textron.

Textron would like additional time to meet a new jobs requirement included in its 2015 state grant. It wants the deadline to be extended from Aug. 1, 2018, to Aug. 1, 2019. In order for the extension to be considered, a public hearing needs to be held. The council set the public hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Textron acquired Arctic Cat in 2017. Two years earlier, Arctic Cat received an $850,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Arctic Cat used the grant to expand its plant by building an addition and purchasing a new powder coat paint system. As part of the Minnesota Investment Fund Grant, the company was required to add 39 new full-time employees in Thief River Falls in addition to the 985 full-time employees listed at the time of the grant application. As a result, the company needed to have a total of 1,024 full-time employees by Aug. 1, 2018.

Since then, Arctic Cat has been acquired by Textron. Employees have also transferred between the three locations that were operated by Arctic Cat.

Textron is seeking an extension to Aug. 1, 2019, in order to meet the jobs requirement. It hopes to hire about 100 new employees through an employment agency, according to Public Works Director Mark Borseth. After two months with the company, they became qualifying employees of Textron. He noted that the company is confident that it can meet the job requirements. If Textron is unable to meet the requirements, it will be required to repay a portion of the grant that will be prorated per job.

The hearing is a requirement for the proposed extension. The city hasn’t provided any funding for the grant.
Council Member Jerald Brown said the city needs to do everything it can to keep employers in Thief River Falls. He added that the city helped Digi-Key and should help Textron, too.

The council approved a low quote from R.J. Zavoral & Sons for lime sludge removal and application related to the former water treatment ponds. Zavoral will be paid $160 per hour for the backhoe and $105 per hour for side dump trucks.

“This will be the last time these ponds will be cleaned,” Water Systems Superintendent Wayne Johnson said.
The old water treatment ponds are located at the intersection of Pennington Avenue and Nora Street. The city has since begun using its new water treatment ponds southeast of Challenger Elementary School.

Zavoral will remove lime sludge, which is created as part of the water treatment process. It will then apply the lime sludge to land.

City leaders have estimated it may cost $75,000, but they don’t know the depth of the ponds or the amount of material that will be removed. The ponds weren’t formally engineered when they were constructed many decades ago.

Zavoral will then fill in the old ponds with material from the area excavated for the future Digi-Key Drive. Zavoral is the city’s contractor for the 2018 Street and Utilities Improvement Project.

Days after the council meeting, the city planned to tear down a house next to the former water treatment ponds. It purchased the property in May for $34,000. Johnson said asbestos has been abated in the home. The city also plans to remove brush and some oak trees, which are in rough shape, to assist with water drainage.
In the past, it was noted that the city plans to use the site of the former water treatment ponds to store streetlight poles and wood poles. That site is considered to be an unbuildable parcel.

The council approved a conditional use permit for Verizon Wireless contingent upon no objections from the Thief River Falls Regional Airport and Sanford Health. Verizon Wireless plans to build a 145-foot monopole communications tower, Borseth said. It plans to construct the tower on property owned by Nordhagen Holdings on the southwest side of the city. Communication towers are allowed in industrial districts if a conditional use permit were approved.

City Council approved a conditional use permit for John Kertz’s property along Breezy Drive. Kertz initially planned to construct six attached townhomes at that location. Kertz has since decided to construct two twinhomes and a single-family home. Single-family homes are allowed in the Multi-Family Residential District (R-4) as a conditional use.

Council Member Rachel Prudhomme suggested that the council reexamine its food truck ordinance. She said an amazing food truck has begun providing its services in the city. Referring to the lack of restaurants, Prudhomme suggested possibly expanding the opportunities for food trucks to get closer to the downtown area.

Contingent on a review by the City Attorney’s Office, the council approved a two-year natural gas supply agreement with Constellation NewEnergy – Gas Division LLC. Given the amount of natural gas purchased for Ralph Engelstad Arena, the city is able to purchase natural gas from this provider. Currently, the city purchases natural gas from Minnesota Energy Resources for REA. In the past two years, the city spent $82,810. The city estimates the change will save about $3,500 per year. Arena Manager Missy Sletten noted that the city would still have to pay a transportation fee to Minnesota Energy.

The Pennington County Fair started a day after the council meeting. Brown thanked Council Member Curt Howe, who serves as the Fair Board president; the Fair Board and other volunteers. “Thank you for your hard work,” Brown said.

The next council meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 7 at 4:30 p.m. at Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village. The council is meeting at that time and location since council members will be serving food at Night to Unite.