CUSTER COUNTY— The Custer County Board of Supervisors held their first meeting of June on Tuesday, June 9 in person at the Custer County Courthouse. The main topic on the agenda centered around a public hearing on a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) loan to Sandhills Motors in Arnold. The loan had originally been approved at a May meeting, but due to a procedural misstep, the loan had to be approved again, but not before a public hearing was held.
CEDC Executive Director Andrew Ambriz along with Travis Hansen, who serves on the CDBG Advisory Committee, spoke to the Supervisors and answered questions about the loan as well as the decision from the advisory committee. Hansen said the committee tries to look at each application as objectively as possible and what will be the biggest benefit to all of Custer County.
Hansen said that approximately a year ago the funds were repurposed to allow the money to be used as a performance-based grant if the project warranted it. As time went along, Sandhills Motors applied for the forgivable loan in the amount of $225,000 and noted that if the funds were not made available the business could face closure.
It was noted that the money is not free money to the business, as they must continue to meet certain requirements including maintaining seven jobs as well as adding two additional jobs for the length of the loan or they would be required to pay back the loan. Hansen also said that the committee can’t see into the future, so they have to make decisions on what is currently available to them when it comes to the loan regulations.
District 5 Supervisor Don Olson voiced concerns that if the loan was granted and Sandhills Motors defaulted on the loan, Custer County taxpayer money would have to be used to pay back the loan. Olson also felt that this was the improper way to use the CDBG money to move out of a community.
District 4 Supervisor Dwain Bryner said that he would rather see the funds used for housing which he noted is difficult to find in a number of communities across the county. Bryner noted that if the funds were used to help with housing the economic impact would be greater than just the nine total jobs that would come from Sandhills Motors.
District 6 Supervisor Matt Eggleston said that the loan was designed to further jobs within Custer County and it has done that for the past 17 years. Eggleston felt that the board needs to remember the true purpose of the loan where the focus is on jobs. He also noted that it isn’t about picking one area over another but picking those who will step forward in the communities.
While the hearing as a whole was attended well by over twenty people, only two individuals spoke. Arnold resident Larry Moran told the board that his concern was the precedence it would set if the board passed the loan. He felt that if a business in Custer County wanted to close their doors and move to Broken Bow, the board would give them the money to move.
The second individual who is also a resident of Arnold asked the members of the supervisors if any of them had a conflict of interest that would not allow them to vote on the matter, which all of the board members indicated they did not have a conflict of interest.
Supervisor Olson made the first motion to deny the loan to Sandhills Motors which failed 3-4 (voting yes to deny loan: Bobby Myers, Dwain Bryner, Don Olson; voting to not deny the loan: Tammy Kleeb, Barry Fox (tiebreaker), Matt Eggleston, Doug Stunkel).
Following the failed motion, Eggleston made a motion to approve the loan to Sandhills Motors which passed 4-3 (voting yes to approve loan: Tammy Kleeb, Barry Fox (tiebreaker), Matt Eggleston, Doug Stunkel; voting no to approving the loan: Bobby Myers, Dwain Bryner, Don Olson).
Stay tuned for more details on the remainder of the Custer County Supervisors meeting.