North Branch looking for ways to help businesses

Amid the financial difficulties being experienced by area businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of North Branch has been trying to find additional ways to give people a helping hand. During the April 28 city council meeting, the council unanimously approved applying for funds from East Central Energy in order to establish a Revolving Loan Fund. 

According to Community Development Director Carla Vita, ECE is offering up to $20,000 for cities within their coverage area that don’t already have a Revolving Loan Fund set up. Vita said the city would distribute the money, so they could set all of the terms for the loan, including interest rate and length of the loan. The only recommendation from ECE is that the city puts a cap of $5,000 per loan in order to spread wealth out more. She added the city could put an even lower cap if it wanted to.

According to ECE’s terms for the loan, this would be an interest-free loan to the city. So if a city chooses to attach a low-interest amount, that interest money would then be made available for future loans to businesses. The city will begin repaying ECE after six months, with the full amount of the loan being paid back in no more than 36 months.

“This is a great opportunity for us to assist our businesses at this time,” Vita said.

Vita said she was going to apply for the loan the following day, and if North Branch is awarded any money, she could present to the council a plan for distributing the money at the May 12 city council meeting.

City honors centurion

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Jim Swenson read a proclamation in honor of Harley Johnson’s 100th birthday, which took place on April 14.

Johnson is a life-long resident of the area and served for the Army in World War II, taking part in the second wave at the Battle of Normandy, where he was injured at Utah Beach. He has received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, along with various other ribbons for his service.

Johnson currently resides at North Branch Ecumen Senior Living Center. In celebration of his birthday, the North Branch VFW held a ceremony outside Ecumen, along with a parade as Johnson looked on from inside.

City’s garbage collection bid awarded

The city’s garbage collection contract is awarded beginning on May 1 of each year. This year, after receiving three bids from Waste Management, Ace Solid Waste and SRC Inc, the council chose to stay with Ace as they not only had the lowest bid, but the city has been satisfied with their service. This contract is only for the removal of refuse from city buildings. Residents are still allowed to choose which of the licensed refuse haulers they would like to remove their garbage.

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