Bonds approved for cheese plant expansion

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ Staff Writer

Clovis city commissioners had no problem issuing bonds for Southwest Cheese, voting 7-0 without discussion to allow the sale of up to $100 million in industrial revenue bonds over a 20-year period.

But a matter of 0.1 percent became a mild sticking point at Thursday’s meeting.

The commission approved an ordinance regarding creation of the bonds, with an issue date of May 1, a maturity date of May 1, 2029 and an interest rate of 8 percent.

The expansion, Clovis Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry said, would add new equipment for a production line at the plant south of Clovis. The expansion is expected to add 75 jobs — 35 direct, and 40 indirect — on top of the 205 Southwest Cheese currently employs, Gentry said.

Plant officials said they would release additional details about the expansion next week.

In addition to the bonds, Gentry said Southwest Cheese was asking for a waiver of a 0.1 percent city administrative fee on industrial revenue bonds — up to $100,000, in this case. Instead, the plant requested to pay the standard $1,000 filing fee, plus reimburse the city for any labor costs associated with the IRB.

Gentry said the plant, which started production in 2004, did not have to pay the 0.1 percent fee in the past.

City Attorney David Richards said the work would be minimal since it was essentially repetition of previous bonds for the cheese plant, and Gentry didn’t figure the associated costs would be more than $10,000.

Mayor Pro Tem Randy Crowder opposed the waiver.

Crowder said while the cheese plant has been great for Clovis, he thought it was unfair to give the plant special treatment on administrative fees.

Crowder said some revenues that were anticipated haven’t come to fruition since the plant was established, and the cheese plant has made a profit more than healthy enough to cover such fees.

Also, Crowder said, if that money is waived, that’s up to $100,000 the city won’t have to pay for city services and employees, and that cost gets pushed on residential taxpayers.

Crowder found little support from the commission.

Len Vohs thought the plant’s benefits to the community far outweighed the cost of losing administrative fees, as did Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

“It looks like a little city out there,” Brumfield said. “I think it’s great if they have a great bottom line, because it adds to economic impact.”

Commissioner Fred Van Soelen voiced dissent because he felt the city employees did a lot of work on behalf of IRBs without much actual revenue in return. But Van Soelen said he would vote for the waiver based on Richards’ opinion of the work being repetitive.

The waiver passed 6-1, with Crowder voting no.

The Clovis City Commission met Thursday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

• Commissioners unanimously approved waiving a tax lien of $22,963.98 for Neal Morris of Clovis for a tax lien he was unaware of until he purchased the respective property.

Morris purchased property at 800 Jones for $1,400 at a state tax sale in March. Prior to the sale, Morris checked the tax records at the Curry County Courthouse and found the property had a $1,680.57 weed cutting lien on the property, owed to the city.

When Morris came to pay the lien, he was told the property was also listed as 1202-1208 W Street, with a demolition lien — $9,707.42 for the April 2004 demoltion of the previous building and $13,256 in interest.

Commissioner Isidro Garcia asked what the city normally gets in property auctions for lots like Morris’. Budget Director Don Clifton said, “$500, if we’re lucky.” Garcia moved for approval, and it was approved after discussion on the “double address” clerical error.

• Terry Moberly and Donnie Lewellen were voted back onto the city’s Civil Aviation Board. Others on the ballot were were Bob Linn, Michael Purnell and Benjamin Wright. Mayor Gayla Brumfield thanked all the applicants for their interests and requested continued volunteerism for city committees.

• Commissioners approved $3,000 in donations to the Region V Task Force — $2,000 from the Tucumcari Police Department, and $1,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police in the name of Waylon Rains.

• The commission approved a variance for the number of pets located at the residence of Michelle Hardagree of Clovis. Numerous letters submitted praised Hardagree as a lover of animals, who takes in stray cats and dogs and makes sure they are spayed or neutered.

• A pair of task orders were approved for Camp Dresser & McKee — $968,000 for wastewater treatment plant improvements design, bidding and engineering services, and $9,680 for work on a mid-term landfill permit review.

• Street closure was approved Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Santa Fe Street to give Webb’s Watering Hole additional parking for a benefit rally, which will be held inside the bar.

• A TEA (Taxed Enough Already) rally received approval, with street closure from noon to 1 p.m. April 15 — the day individual tax forms must be sent to the Internal Revenue Service.

The event, requested by Curry County Republican Party Chair Rube Render, is a non-partisan event intended to show opposition to taxes incurred from corporate bailouts. It will take place on Main Street, between 7th and 8th Streets.

On the commission action request form, Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney approved the event, “so long as there are no torches or pitchforks.”