By Lauren Zaepfel
The Wheatfield Town Board voted Monday to apply for $100,000 in state funds on behalf of Jacob's Ladder, an exercise equipment manufacturing company that is moving from North Tonawanda's Wurlitzer building to the vacant, former Motorad building at 6292 Walmore Road in the Town of Wheatfield.
"The reason we need additional help and (are) asking the Town of Wheatfield to apply for us for some state funding is we've run in to some additional costs that we really didn't expect," Jacob's Ladder President Robert Palka said. "The sprinkler system that we thought was going to cost about $70,000 is now costing about $100,000. We've run into probably half a dozen to a dozen different issues like that. Part of the issue was that this building has been vacant for about two to two-and-a-half years and it's starting to show signs of some severe neglect."
The company faces other big expenses, including an electrical upgrade, as well as the building of 12,000 square feet of office space.
"Once we get that done, we're going to pick up our operations and move them into the new facility," Palka said.
The application for the state funds must be submitted by either the Town of Wheatfield or the town's local development corp. - a decision the board still needs to make, as the LDC has been inactive for approximately one year.
The $100,000 would come from federal government through the New York State Office of Community Renewal.
Approximately $10,000 of the $100,000 would be used for administrative office fees.
Of the remaining $90,000, $45,000 would be given automatically to the business as a deferred loan, which would then be converted to a grant if the company met all required thresholds stated in the application.
To receive this funding, the state would require Jacob's Ladder to reach thresholds, including the creation of two jobs each year over the next two years - a total of four full time-equivalent positions.
Palka said he plans to double the size of the company in the next five years from having 15 employees to 30.
The other $43,000 in funds would be given in the form of a term loan. Repayment would be made out to the town or LDC, within a certain amount of time, which R. Charles Bell of H. Sicherman & Co., an economic development consulting firm, recommended to be five years.
The money paid toward the term loan could be used for other local projects. Bell said the funds from the New York State Office of Community Renewal would need to be kept in a separate account and the money could be reinvested to benefit local people and businesses of low income.
He said the funds can potentially be used for economic developments, public infrastructure projects, or housing programs if the recipient is low or moderate income.
When preparing the application, Bell and the board or LDC are expected to work together to determine the structure of the deal. Possible specifications include the loan repayment period, interest rate, disbursement schedule, collateralization of security and liability protection.
The town or the LDC would need to have the application submitted by mid-April to meet the application deadline.
If the state rejects the application, Bell said it would simply be "wasted time and effort" and there would not be a "black mark" on the town.
In other news
•The board awarded low-bidder Wendel, an engineering firm, the bid to design a fence around the Niagara Sanitation Landfill. The cost came to $6,800, which includes "the design of the actual fence, as well as the building of bidding specifications for a company to follow in putting the fence in place. It also includes the survey work to show the property line, as we want to stay as close to the property line as we can," Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said in an email Tuesday. "The purpose of the fence is to keep walkers, ATV operators and dirt bikes out of the landfill for their own good."
•The board entered into an agreement with CSX Transportation regarding the engineering review of the construction of a pedestrian bridge to go over CSXT lines. This task is part of the construction of the Niagara River Waterfront Multi-use Trail. The cost is $14,960 and, "In order for CSX to even consider any design work we are doing, work which will cross the tracks, we have to prepay for their engineering time," Cliffe said Tuesday in an email. "When the project review is completed by CSX, if they do not expend the full amount, they will return overpayments. Of course, there are two sides to that. Should it cost more than that which we are paying now, we will have to pay more."