• Community continues to discuss plastic plant’s possible departure
ARLINGTON – The Global Polymer issue continues to simmer in Arlington.
The high-tech plastics parts manufacturer is actively in talks to relocate its headquarters, possibly to Brookings or Madison, after being refused a rezoning request for expansion and city consideration of the company’s electric rates.
Loss of the plant would be a major blow for the Kingsbury County community of 915.
The denial of the company’s request to rezone property it owns adjacent to its current plant was the precipitating factor that has driven the longtime manufacturer to consider moving its 125-member workforce out of the community.
That action by the Arlington City Council in July – prompted by protests from the manufacturer’s neighboring property owners – drew a standing-room-only turnout from Global Polymer supporters at the council’s meeting in August.
It also prompted an Arlington businesswoman, Coleen Liebsch, to announce that she would begin circulating petitions for the recall of Arlington Mayor Amiel Redfish.
Liebsch, who is a former president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the Arlington Community Development Corporation (ACDC), makes it clear she is acting on her own.
In fact, the ACDC has already distanced itself from Liebsch’s action and is on record as opposing the recall of the mayor.
Randy Jencks, ACDC president, noted that Liebsch is not currently an active member of the group and “does not speak for us.” Jencks said the economic development group would soon release a statement of its own on the Global Polymer issue. Jencks remains optimistic that the city-corporate conflict can be resolved.
In a letter scheduled for publication this week (see Tuesday’s Register), Liebsch says she has been contacted by several individuals who have asked her to reconsider initiating the recall vote against the mayor but adds that far more have applauded her action.
She continues her efforts, she says, to get information about Global Polymer’s electric rates – which are another key reason the business is considering leaving Arlington – but those efforts have been stymied by city officials.
At the time of the July zoning meeting, she writes, “I was working with and in close communication with the ACDC, the city council and even the mayor. When the subject turned to electricity, I was told to stay out of it because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked them to explain it to me. They said no. I researched it myself. When the issue became obvious, I was told that since I am not in an official position, the details were none of my business.”
Todd Huntimer, president of Global Polymer, in an Aug. 13 letter to the community, noted that the electrical rate issue is critically important to his company:
“Global’s rate is .0547 per kilowatt hour (kwh), with a higher demand charge as well, compared to Howard at .032 and Brookings at .033. … The city has also been threatening a 17.5 percent increase in electric rates this year.”
He said relocating to a community like Brookings would mean $17,000 to $20,000 a month in electrical savings – as much as a quarter-million dollars a year. With a potential rate increase from its hometown, “Global could be facing an annual penalty of closer to a half-million dollars annually to operate in Arlington.”
Huntimer in his letter also charged that the city council “has been consistently deceptive about the electrical rate issue. They either feign ignorance or spin the issue … The real issue is that they overcharge for electric rates and then transfer from the electric fund to the general fund, and then the mayor can spend at his discretion.”
Liebsch says all her efforts to help deal with the problem have been rebuffed:
“Since (July), I have been unsuccessful in every attempt I have made to present the issue and potential solutions to the ‘official’ parties. Again, I was told to mind my own business, or that I wasn’t in an official position and therefore was not privy to the information. In other words, we had reached an impasse.”
That’s why she began the recall, she said.
“My goal is the same as it has always been, to help Arlington,” Liebsch says in her media statement this week.
“I do not want anyone to have to take the blame for losing the factory, but the truth is, we can still keep them,” she writes.
Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.