Red Willow County commissioners listened to updates on hiring by EarthBlooms Eco-Retreat southwest of Cambridge and the sale of land east of Quality Urgent Care during their weekly meeting in the courthouse in McCook Monday morning.
Andela Taylor, general manager of EarthBlooms, the eco-retreat being developed on her rural Red Willow County family farm, told commissioners that the hospitality/events administrator that she has hired starts Thursday.
A $131,000 Nebraska Department of Economic Development tourism development initiative grant for which Taylor applied and was approved in 2005 requires that Taylor create 3 1/2 full-time jobs with the creation of the retreat designed to focus on nature, wellness, culinary arts, arts and crafts, horticulture and agriculture. Andela and her new employee represent two full-time positions, and Andela's husband, Dave, represents one part-time position.
The DED grant requires that the jobs last at least three years.
Taylor told commissioners Monday that she met with Steve Charleston of the Nebraska DED last week and will have information on the creation of another full-time position to Charleston before he must make a report to a CDBG federal aid administrator in June.
Taylor said that her original timeline "stretched out" due, in part, to escalating construction and fuel costs. Her original plans included the renovation of an existing steel building into the visitors' center, however, those plans changed, she said, and she created the retreat space in a new addition connected to her home.
"The siding contractor is working as we speak," she told commissioners.
Taylor said she was upset that a Gazette headline on April 6 indicates that she is opening in July. "We may do something in July, but a big grand opening, probably not," she said.
In May 2005, commissioners agreed that the county could be the governmental agency through which the Taylors' grant funds would be funneled. Commissioners are watching the eco-retreat closely. "It's our responsibility and our intent to make sure she meets all commitments of the grant application," Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said Monday. "It's too late to turn back now," so commissioners must make certain that all commitments are fulfilled, he said, to avoid a situation in which the county may be required to repay the grant funding.
All but about $1,700 of the $123,000 grant money available to the Taylors has been spent, McNutt said. An $8,000 portion of the $131,000 total award pays for the grant administrator, Miller and Associates of McCook.
Charleston told commissioners in March 2010 that if the Taylors fail to meet the national objective of job creation, the funding will be disallowed and the grantee will be required to repay all funds to the NDED.
Monday morning, commissioners struck from a motion they approved on April 5 the requirement that Quality Urgent Care, a recipient of a $70,000 loan from the county's revolving loan program, apply $5,000 from the proposed sale of land to the loan principal at the end of the note. The motion also required that Quality Urgent Care bring its loan payments current before commissioners will consider releasing a portion of the county's loan collateral.
Quality Urgent Care owner Jim Allen told commissioners that missing his March payment was an oversight on his part, and asked about the possibility of the county sending a monthly statement that he can add to his pile of bills each month. Rex Nelson, administrator of the county's loan program, said he would look into the possibility of using a computer program that creates monthly statements.
Allen said he has a buyer interested in buying the lot east of the clinic, and asked commissioners to grant a partial deed of reconveyance to release that lot from the county's collateral.
Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said he has "no qualms" about releasing the property now that Quality Urgent Care has its loan payments up to date, and amended his April 5 motion.
McNutt said that commissioners didn't intend any bad publicity for the clinic with their motion; what McNutt called "bad loans in the past" are making commissioners edgy. "We've had a couple instances were things have gone south," Hoyt said, thinking of Nelson going to Colorado Friday to retrieve the intellectual properties of the now defunct Pawnee Aviation, which left the county holding the bag for a $300,000 loan not repaid.
Nate Schneider, attorney for Quality Urgent Care, told commissioners that "numbers are good and receipts are high" at the clinic.
The Red Willow County treasurer's and assessor's offices will remain open on Friday, April 30, the state Arbor Day holiday.
County Treasurer Marleen Garcia told commissioners that the last day of the month is a primary tax collection day, and County Assessor Sandra Kotschwar said that, for the convenience of tax payers, her office will be open to accept personal property schedules.
Deputy County Attorney Phil Lyons approved the proposed notice of a public hearing Monday, May, 10, at 9:30 a.m., to accept public input on the sale and/or lease of the county-owned apartment house at 524 Norris.