By Bonnie Culverhouse
Since 2017, Keith McClung, owner of McClung’s Service Center, has been contributing to the Tax Increment Fund (TIF). TIF allows local governments and businesses to invest in public infrastructure and other improvements.
Now McClung needs a return on his investment so he can satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Quality.
“I’ve had (fuel) tanks in the ground since 1991, and I need to take care of it,” McClung told the Minden City Council during a workshop Tuesday. “It’s not really feasible for me to take a 33-foot tank out of the ground.”
McClung, whose station is on the corner of Sheppard and E. Union streets (US Hwy. 80) said removing a tank that large would cause flooding problems with that intersection … especially if a hole that large should settle.
“We’re going to fill the tanks with sand,” McClung said. “I will have to have some tests run while I’m doing it, but everything should be OK on that.”
DEQ will test soil around the tank before it is filled or removed.
Pump Masters has quoted $18,630 to fill the tank and then the area around it with backfill. McClung said he has applied for a loan from a local bank, and it has been approved. To completely remove the tank would cost at least $40,000, he said. It is near water and sewer lines, which could cause other problems.
“What I’m asking the council to do is go into the TIF fund,” McClung said. “I’ve been giving to that fund since it started, and I’ve put in $12,514. From what Michael (Fluhr, interim city clerk) has told me, I am eligible for 80 percent of that, which is about $10,000.”
McClung said he understands the work will have to be done and paid for before he can receive the TIF money.
In order for that to take place, McClung and the council must enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement. McClung will be required to show a receipt for the work in order to be reimbursed with the TIF money.
“I read through the ordinance from Louisiana Economic Development, and it’s pretty specific about the money going to economic development,” District A Councilman Wayne Edwards said. “How do you speak to that ordinance?”
McClung said it will help his business financially.
“I plan to stay in business many more years,” he told the council. “I have to do this one way or another. If I ever get ready to sell the business, this will have to be done before I can do that. It will increase the value of the property.”
District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker said she was concerned that McClung wants the money so he can sell his business.
“If we enter into this cooperative agreement, it’s not really helping economic development,” she said. “It’s just helping you financially to sell it.”
Fluhr said he spoke to David Wolf, the attorney who drew up the local TIF districts.
“Any request from DEQ and EPA in reference to the property and hazardous possibilities, any improvement could be considered economic development,” Fluhr said. “I believe his (McClung’s) is a valid case, not only to improve the property. He’s asking for all the years he has collected (TIF) to get back some of the money. He wants to keep his business and improve it.”
Fluhr said there is more than $53,000 in the TIF District where McClung’s Service Center is located.
“So it would be possible to give him his 80 percent,” Fluhr said.
“How is this going to help the city?” Williams-Walker asked. “It sounds like it’s just going to help him.”
“In my opinion, you avoid a hazardous possibility,” he said. “He wants to avoid a similar situation to the Imperial Cleaners building by filling in the tank, make it safe.
“DEQ has already approached him, and they are going to fine him if he doesn’t do anything,” Fluhr continued. “Future problems are resolved if they fill in the tank.”
McClung said, later, that if he receives nothing from TIF, he will leave the program.
“There’s no point in me continuing to put money in it, if I’m not going to get any help from it,” he said.
McClung said there is only one tank underground. It is 33 feet long and around 20 feet wide.
With District D Councilman Michael Roy participating through a conference call, all councilpersons were present at the meeting. They agreed to place McClung’s request on the July agenda.
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