By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Is it time to expand the Colfax industrial park?
That was one of the questions debated by the Colfax Village Board at the March 25 meeting.
Jackie Ponto, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, advised the village board that the general discussion about the industrial park expansion must be conducted in open session.
The agenda included an item for closed session if the village board wanted to discuss making an offer to purchase property for the industrial park, as is allowed by state statute.
Expanding the industrial park might be in the village’s best interests, said Mark Halpin, village trustee.
Halpin conducted the meeting in the absence of Village President Gary Stene.
The village board should have a plan for the industrial park, said Richard Johnson, village trustee.
The industrial park has one parcel left, and the village would not want to lose the chance to buy more property, he said.
On the other hand, different financial advisors have given different advice about whether to wait until a business wants to locate in Colfax, whether the village board should have the right of first refusal for property, or whether it would be better to buy property now, Johnson said.
If the village board were going to consider buying property now, the cost would have to be justified, he said.
The village board recently refinanced a certain amount of debt, and Colfax now has a smaller borrowing capacity, down to 40 percent, Johnson said.
At this point, the Colfax Village Board has not received a report on how much has been saved by refinancing the debt, he said.
A larger parcel might be more cost-effective than a smaller parcel since purchasing any size parcel would require certain legal procedures along with a survey, said Chris Olson, village trustee.
“I agree about the debt load,” he said.
Eric Turner, director of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation, also attended the village board’s March 25 meeting.
Board members wondered if any businesses have recently expressed an interest in Colfax.
Businesses have been expressing interest in Dunn County in general, although no specific interest has been indicated for Colfax at this point, Turner said.
Johnson asked if the Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) could be expanded to include more property in the industrial park.
Municipalities have three opportunities to expand an existing TIF district, Turner said.
Colfax has four TIF districts; the industrial park TIF is paying its way, Johnson said.
Before expanding a TIF, “you would have to see if it will cost out and if it makes sense to get the return back,” Turner said.
Scott Gunnufson, village trustee, suggested that Ponto check with the village’s financial advisor to find out how much the village could afford to spend.
The Colfax Village Board approved a motion to postpone taking any action on the expansion of the industrial park until the next regular village board meeting April 8.
Ponto reported to the village board that Don Henderson had submitted an annexation petition to the clerk’s office.
The petition should be forwarded to the Colfax Plan Commission for review and a recommendation to the village board, she said.
The annexation must go through the plan commission in order to proceed properly, Ponto said.
The village currently does not have an active plan commission.
Several board members suggested checking with those who were appointed to the plan commission a little more than ten years ago for developing the comprehensive plan to see if any of them would still be willing to serve.
State law specifies that a village president, mayor or town chair appoints members to a plan commission for a three-year term.
If an item required by law does not go through a plan commission, a circuit court judge could reverse the decision made by a village board, town board or city council.
The annexation for the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center’s building project did not go through a village plan commission.