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Officials mum on Singleteary

January 20, 2013
by Antonio Acosta - Register Staff Writer (tacosta@faribaultcountyregister.com) , Faribault County Register

State and local officials are tight-lipped on what they learned on a recent tour of the Singleteary Food Solutions facility in Wells.

"What is going on? Is this money going down the rat hole?" resident Russell Bathke asked the Wells council on Monday night.

"There's tax dollars involved and nobody has any answers or wants to be held accountable," he adds.

City Administrator Steve Bloom says owner Steve Singleteary took half a dozen people on a 30-minute tour on Jan. 11.

"There are intentions to open. I'm going to be very careful what I say. There is a lot of money involved," Bloom says.

Singleteary also reportedly sat down with officials for one hour to discuss status of the business.

Bloom says it's his understanding that state officials have given Singleteary until March 15 to either open the facility or start repaying a loan to the city's EDA.

"I felt he was sincere when he said he plans to open the business. He is an established businessman and I have every belief he will open," says Bloom.

A resolution passed by the Wells council last April extended loan payments to begin in December 2012.

Singleteary received a $500,000 loan from DEED and the city acted as a "loan sponsor."

That means the company would pay the EDA the full amount at an interest rate of 2.5 percent for 10 years until employment number goals set by the state are met. At that point, $100,000 would be forgiven.

Bloom says the city has not received a payment.

"We'll have to see what happens by March 15. He can request an extension. At that time we'll have to decide what to do," he says.

In addition, the Wells EDA gave the start-up venture $150,000 that does not have to be repaid and the county's EDA contributed another $100,000.

Singleteary isn't giving out any details of the meeting.

The Register's attempts to contact him by phone or e-mail have been unsuccessful.

Samantha DiMaggio of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development was among those who met with Singleteary.

"I don't give comments. Everything is handled through our communications department," she says.

Despite federal, state and local funds being used to finance the project, Blake Chaffee, communications director at DEED, says little information can be released.

"From DEED's perspective, we're hopeful about the project," he says.

Meanwhile, Singleteary has other small bills remaining unpaid.

Last October, Judge Douglas Richards entered a judgment in favor of a Fairmont business for $370.

Tom Westcott, owner of Cross Connection Inspection Services of Fairmont, says he still hasn't been paid for valve testing done at the facility on Oct. 3, 2011.

He says with fees and interest the bill has increased to around $400.

"I went to the next step, which is to garnish his (Jim Durfee) wages. And, I'm going to do that," he says.

Durfee was listed on the civil suit as a Singleteary representative and did not show up for the conciliation court hearing.

Westcott says he's talked with Durfee and was told company officials hope to open the plant sometime in February.

Singleteary also owes taxes on four properties.

On one parcel there's a balance due for 2011 in the amount of $167.47 and $291.98 for 2012.

For three other parcels a total of $1,331 is owed for last year.

 
 

 

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