After approaching the Pine River City Council and Cass County Board, Mike Paulus, of the Cass County Economic Development Corp., requested a tax abatement from the Pine River-Backus School Board at its Monday, Aug. 19, regular meeting.

The request for tax abatement is on behalf of Blackline Conversions, Micah Eveland's business located near Christensen Forest Products at the north end of Pine River. Blackline Conversions is seeking to expand its facilities in cooperation with Voyager Industries of Brandon, Minnesota. Blackline's crew would be responsible for internal finishing of fish house campers that Voyager builds.

Paulus said the approximately $1.3 million facility would create 25-39 new positions paying $15-$22 per hour. Blackline Conversions is receiving a state grant for $194,000 for job training. The company is seeking a five-year abatement on only the new facility.

The abatement would help Eveland and his company to operate at lower expenses during the first few critical years. Paulus has proposed the same abatement to the school board, city and county authorities.

For the first two years the new property would pay no property taxes. On year three it would pay approximately 25% of the property tax value, 50% in year four, 75% in year five and 100% from year six on. Paulus estimated the property tax generated from the property at that time would be nearly six times the current taxes.

In addition, the business could attract workers and revenue to the Pine River area. The abatement does not reduce taxes the district currently collects from Blackline Conversions or other properties.

The school board policy dictates that the school board must only discuss the topic at this August meeting. In September the board can move the topic into the action items and schedule a public hearing, after which board members can decide what to do. The board is expected to take action in September.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Said farewell to several longtime employees, including Noelle Kuitunen-Johnson, elementary music teacher; maintenance worker Ron Koering; and cook Shelly Shaefer. Superintendent Dave Endicott and the board issued a thank you to them.

“They will be missed, but we hope their next endeavor will be good for them,” Endicott said.

  • Accepted the resignations of paraprofessional Hope Crawford, bus drivers Paula Soderquist and Dylan Gengler, and John Riewer as girls varsity cross country coach.
  • Hired Brenda Helmrichs as Title 1 teacher, Jamie Rugroden as high school special education teacher, Christina Fennell as junior high volleyball coach, Justin Franke as junior high football coach, Conner Guetter as football scout, Tim Ramler as girls varsity cross country coach, Paula Soderquest as transportation dispatcher and Arlen Olivier as van driver.
  • Eliminated the community asset developer position.
  • Approved creation of a High Reliability Schools coordinator position.