Village of Cassopolis approves resolution to co-sign EDA Grant for MEC

CASSOPOLIS — The Cassopolis Village Council met via ZOOM for a special meeting to approve a resolution to co-sign an Economic Development Administration Grant application for Midwest Energy Monday night.

The grant application is for MEC’s proposed SMART Park, which it plans to build on the property it owns near its headquarters on Decatur Road, property which was annexed into the village of Cassopolis over the summer.

“We have been partnering with them all along to help facilitate in any way we can through the village,” said Cassopolis Village Manager Emilie Sarratore. “They [MEC] are getting ready to file a grant application. The village would be co-applicant on that grant.”

The Southwest Michigan Advanced Research and Technology Park is a proposed 250-acre state-of-the-art rail and fiber served business venture that will accommodate commercial and industrial projects with a number of energy options and amenities that address the needs of future tenants and community residents according information provided to the EDA by US Congressman Fred Upton, R.-St. Joseph, who has thrown his full support behind the project.
“We are really focused on the remaining 250 acres in terms developing that,” said Dave Allen, MEC vice president for regulatory and gas operations. “We have worked well with Abonmarche to do a lot of the civil engineering on this location. We have worked with Canadian National Railroad and they have supported our request to break that track to provide provide some rail services into the park. K&M [Manufacturing] is very interested in that. We do have some prospects that continue to look at the park. In fact, we have six that are in various stages of evaluating locations within the park.”

Allen said that the Michigan Department of Transportation has granted MEC a curb cut along M-60 and they are evaluating the safety issues that go with the curb cut. That would allow MDOT to put additional lanes on M-60 to help with traffic flow in and out of the park.

Allen added that the project is not what he called a “slam dunk” as his board would like to see some property purchased and grants secured.

In order to start applying for those grants, MEC needs a resolution from the village of Cassopolis as part of the process.

“The village of Cassopolis has been great partners,” Allen said. “We have had some great conversations. They are not always comfortable, but they are honest and very direct in representing the village and we appreciate that.”

The money that MEC is seeking from the EDA comes from the CARES Act that was part of the Stimulus Package. That money would help pay for some of the infrastructure in the park.

When the village annexed the MEC property with a 425 agreement over the summer, the agreement allows Penn Township to provide all the water services, while the village of Cassopolis will be responsible for all the sanitary sewage, storm drains and the roads.

Upgrades will be made the village sewer system in order to create the capacity required for the first phase of the build out. For the grant, due to the fact that these are public systems, the EDA requires the village to accept ownership of the sewer and roads once they are built to their specifications.

They will be paid for by outside of that with ZDA funding.

The resolution passes unanimously.

The village also approved unanimously to apply for a risk reduction grant.

Cassopolis has applied for the grant, which comes through its insurance carrier, previously and receive funding, up to $5,000. Last year, the village received a grant which it used to mulch and the ADA ramp for the new playground equipment at Clisbee Park.

In discussion items, the village is trying to move forward with a pair of properties it purchased. One of those properties will more than likely have to demolished, while the other may be put up for sale.

The council will make that decision at its regular meeting on Dec. 8.

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