City approves plan for Cherry Berry, 3-2A controversial incentive plan for a frozen yogurt franchise was approved by the Jamestown City Council Tuesday during its regular meeting on a 3-2 split vote.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A controversial incentive plan for a frozen yogurt franchise was approved by the Jamestown City Council Tuesday during its regular meeting on a 3-2 split vote.
The Flex Pace interest buy down incentive plan combines Bank of North Dakota grant money with a loan from the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to reduce interest costs for a planned Cherry Berry frozen yogurt store.
Mayor Katie Andersen, Councilmen Ramone Gumke and Steve Brubakken voted in favor while Councilmen Dan Buchanan and Charlie Kourajian voted no.
The project would combine a Cherry Berry frozen yogurt store and sandwiches under the same roof, said DeAnn Brunner, office coordinator of the JSDC.
In a July interview, Kal Patel, project owner, said he hoped to have the Cherry Berry operational in September.
Brubakken said the program met the policy requirements previously established by the city.
“If the firm qualifies for the program I don’t see how we can deny this,” he said.
The proposal to use the Flex Pace interest buy down had been tabled during the August meeting. The program uses a grant of up to $100,000 from the Bank of North Dakota and a loan of up to $54,000 to reduce the interest costs on start-up loans for the business. The Stutsman County Commission approved Patel’s application during its August meeting but it also needed approval from the City Council to proceed.
Buchanan criticized the incentive program.
“First, I don’t believe the voters had anything like what is proposed here in mind when they entrusted this council with sales tax for economic development and attracting new jobs,” Buchanan said. “From everything I’ve looked at, I don’t believe this is a wise use of public funds. The business plan states it is to provide mostly part-time and low-wage jobs which, in my opinion, will neither benefit the city or anybody but the developer. Approving this sends a message that Jamestown is ready to subsidize almost anything and call it economic development.”
The business plan listed three or four employees at wages from $8 to $8.50 per hour.
Kourajian expressed concern with the wages of the jobs and competition with other frozen dessert operations in Jamestown.
“I look at the guidelines and I see job retention and creating new jobs and essential community services,” he said. “I have a hard time seeing this as good jobs or essential services.”
Kourajian also noted he was disappointed that no citizens addressed the City Council on the topic.
Gumke said concerns of competition with other frozen dessert operations were unfounded.
“One of the competing businesses did contact me,” he said. “But Flex Pace is available to all so competition isn’t really a factor.”
Andersen said she expected requests from council members to review the policy in the future.
In other action, the City Council approved the following committee/board appointments: Buchanan and Andersen, to the Stutsman County Zoning Board; James Nygaard and Andersen, Law Enforcement Center Governing Board; Gumke, Pension Committee; David Hillerud and Harold Bensch, Planning Commission; Brent Harris, Jamestown Regional Airport Authority; Kourajian, Shade Tree Committee; Brubakken and Buchanan, Storm Water Committee; and Andersen, JSDC Board.
The City Council will hold a special budget meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in City Hall. On the agenda are the budgets of the water, sewer and waste disposal departments.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com