Council approves M Lazy Heart Feed Mill project

Jensen Jennings/Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – The Torrington City Council met on Tuesday, June 15, for its second meeting of the month. During the meeting, the council unanimously passed the 2022 fiscal year budget on the third and final reading.

Mayor Randy Adams began the meeting by informing everyone he would not be giving his mayoral information items tonight due to the over 20 action items scheduled for the meeting. Adams said he will be going on the radio some time over the next week to give his informational items to the community.

The first action item of the night was the unanimous approval of a catering permit for Gypsy LaMore with the Open Barrel Brewing Company for the grand opening of 86’D Rod & Custom and Alpha Silver. The event will be held on Saturday, June 26, from noon to 10 p.m. at 119 Curtis Ave in Torrington.

There will be identification checks at the entrance to the enclosed beer garden area and no drinks will be allowed outside of the enclosed area.

The next action item was regarding a Business Ready Community (BRC) grant and loan for the construction of M Lazy Heart Feeds, LLC Feed Mill Facility, in the Torrington East Side Industrial Park area.

Brayden Connour, business development director for Goshen Economic Development presented the proposal to the council and requested support in the form of a signed resolution for the grant and loan combination, so the application process can move forward with the Wyoming Business Council (WBC).

Before Connour began presenting the proposal, he wanted to make sure the council understood this process would be far from over if they were to pass the resolution.

“I would like to mention that this does not mean that this process is over,” Connour said. “This will go to the [Wyoming] Business Council and the staff will review it internally as well as the board. It will then, if recommended, go to the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office for review to ensure it does fit constitutionally. The state loan investment board will review it as well and they are the ones who have the final say.”

Connour also pointed out this funding structure isn’t a new concept and has been used in other Wyoming municipalities. The city of Lander recently passed a similar deal with Maven Optics. The city of Cody did one for a manufacturing facility for gun works and Sheridan has had two similar loans passed.

The grant and loan being pursued will be used to build a feed mill facility. The total cost of the project is $13.3 million, of which $7.3 million is private funding and $3 million from a WBC grant and $3 million from a WBC loan.

Twelve point two acres of land will be purchased to build the facility at a cost of $244,000. The land will be taxed at the industrial rate of 11.5%. The City of Torrington will own the land and facility and will lease it to M Lazy Heart Feeds. They will have the option to purchase the land and facility any time after five years for the balance of the land and/or facility. The lease payment is approximately $234,000 annually for 15 years.

“This project will add value to locally grown agricultural products,” Connour said. “We consider it really a true win for Torrington and Goshen County.”

Following the presentation from Connour, Adams opened up the meeting to a public hearing allowing people to talk either in favor of the proposal or against. Four people spoke in favor and three spoke against it.

One of the people who spoke in favor of the proposal was the co-owner of M Lazy Heart Ranch, Christine Miller. During her address to the council, Miller said she and her husband Paul, were excited about this business opportunity and about being in Torrington and Goshen County.

“We’re very excited to be in Goshen County,” Miller said. “We’re excited with the businesses we currently own and operate. This is an expansion of our feed business and we’re really excited to partner with the City of Torrington to grow that business and utilize local commodities and a local work force and grow this business into something that can benefit the entire state of Wyoming.”

Another person who spoke in favor was Cactus Covello, branch president at Points West Community Bank. Covello said he previously served on the WBC, and he sees nothing but positives in this deal for the City of Torrington.

“I previously served on the Wyoming Business Council, so I’m familiar with these kinds of projects,” Covello said. “The positive that I see is for the city of Torrington more than anything. It’s a chance for the city to increase their tax base and also to make some revenue off this.”

The first person who spoke against the proposal was Shane Viktorin, mill manager at Z&W Mill. Viktorin began his comments by saying a project like this is something that is not unprecedented, but what is unprecedented, is using public money to compete against an existing local business.

“I appreciate Brayden [Connour] telling you earlier that this sort of project is not unprecedented,” Viktorin said. “But what is unprecedented is the application for public money to be used to compete against an existing business of the same industry, in the same locality, in the same market.”

Viktorin said his goal in speaking was to attempt to convince the mayor and the council of the unconstitutionality of political entities granting the use of public funds to finance a private business.

Another concern Viktorin brought up to the council was according to public notice printed in the newspaper, the city received a market analysis conducted on the property by Jackie Van Mark. Viktorin went on to say that Wyoming law requires an appraisal before allowing the sale of publicly owned property.

“Mr. Eddington will tell you that an appraisal and estimate are the same and at least, according to his email, the Wyoming Supreme Court has held that those two words are of the same definition,” Viktorin said. “However, state law does not require a market analysis to be performed, it requires an appraisal.”

Finally, Viktorin gave a warning to other businesses in the community and state by saying that taxpayer money can and may be used by other businesses to compete against your business and that it’s wrong for the government to do that. He also pointed out in the application that Z&W Mill had limited capabilities.

“I would like to note for the record, as noted in the application before you, it was mentioned that our business has ‘limited mixing capabilities’,” Viktorin said. “Whoever wrote that little quip has no idea of the extent of our business, and they severely misunderstand our business and therefore couldn’t be more wrong. We do not have limited capabilities at Z&W Mill and never will, our capabilities are limitless because we believe in them.”

Following the other two citizens who spoke against the proposal, Adams ended the public hearing and had the council vote on two separate resolutions regarding the proposal. The first resolution was number 2021-5 and the second was number 2021-6. Resolution 2021-5 authorizes the submission of an application to the Business Ready Community Business Committed Grant Program for the construction of a feed mill facility in the Torrington East Side Industrial Park to lease to M Lazy Heart Feeds, LLC and number 2021-6 relates to the same submission for a loan program.

Before voting on the resolution, Councilman Dennis Kelly asked if someone could rebut the claims of the unconstitutionality of the proposal. City of Torrington Attorney James Eddington gave a rebuttal to the claims in regard to the term appraisal versus estimate.

“The Wyoming Supreme Court has said on numerous occasions that they are synonymous and interchangeable,” Eddington said. “We see the term appraisal a lot, but we rarely, rarely, use a full-blown appraisal. Not only for our purposes, but probate purposes. In my 31 years I bet I haven’t seen five appraisals in district court, and I’ve litigated over 500 cases. 99% of the evaluations for business and real estate are based on market analysis, because it’s current, cheaper, easier and makes more sense.”

After Eddington gave his explanation, the council unanimously passed resolution number 2021-5 and resolution number 2021-6.

The next action item was a public hearing regarding the sale of the property located in the Torrington East Side Industrial Park in the amount of $244,000. The market analysis was conducted by Jackie Van Mark.

During the public hearing, no one spoke in favor regarding the sale, but one person did speak against the purchase of the property. Resident Carl Carlson said he thinks everyone in the community who produces an agricultural related product has earned their way and that he hopes it stays the way it’s been for the past 75 years, where people work hard to earn their keep.

After closing the public hearing, the council unanimously passed the sale of property in the Torrington East Side Industrial Park.

The next action item was another public hearing regarding the approval of a liquor license for Karlee Jones DBA Deacons Restaurant. During the hearing, Adams had to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest. No one spoke during the public hearing and the council unanimously approved the liquor license.

Following the approval of the liquor license was a public hearing regarding the 2022 Fiscal Year Budget. No one spoke during the hearing and Adams closed the hearing and moved to action item number six, which was the third reading of the budget. The council passed the budget unanimously.

The next action item was the recommendation for retaining AVI Professional Corporation of Cheyenne to perform engineering services for the design, preparation of plans and specifications, bidding services, and construction for Torrington Well No. 16. The council unanimously approved the agreement.

After approving the agreement with AVI, the council approved amendment number two to the agreement for professional services with TriHydro Corporation in a 4-1 vote. The lone no vote was councilman Ted Kinney.

With the approval, the council extended the agreement to December 31, 2022, and increased the budget by $47,000. The TriHydro representative said they ran into some issues that required them to increase the budget, even though the City of Torrington and TriHydro had signed an agreement with a do not exceed clause.

“It seems to me like this is a mistake your company made, your firm made, and you are asking Torrington to pay for it,” Kinney said. “I guess I don’t understand if you’re in business, it seems to me, when you make a mistake, which is what this seems to be, that you are the one that should eat that, not the City of Torrington.”

The next action item was the unanimous approval of amendment number 9 to the agreement for professional services with Inberg-Miller Engineers. The purpose for the agreement to providing well monitoring, testing and state reporting to WYDEQ and for engineering and testing services in support of closure activities of cell No. 13. It will extend the agreement to June 30, 2022.

The next three action items were all second readings on various ordinances that were all unanimously passed with no changes from the Tuesday, June 1, council meeting. The first was relating to liquor regulations, the second related to airport hangar building and the final was relating to various concerns at the airport.

After passing the three second readings, the council unanimously passed three ordinances on first reading. The first ordinance was relating to private fire systems and hydrants. The second was relating to definitions and the final ordinance was relating to backflow prevention assemblies and definitions.

The next action item was resolution number 2021-7 which was amending the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget. The resolution was unanimously passed by the council.

Following the unanimous approval of resolution number 2021-7, was three different policy handbook amendments and removals. All three of the policy handbook amendments were passed unanimously.

The first was in regard to police officer’s and sergeant’s pay and classification. The second was regarding the hiring process, travel policy and compensation and performance evaluation. The final was the removal of pay advances from the policy handbook.

The next meeting of the Torrington City Council will be at 7 p.m. in City Hall on Tuesday, July 6.

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