Just two months ago, the owners of Tower Liquors in North Branch didn’t seem interested in selling the business after a deal to transfer ownership of the store fell through, but now the owners are again approaching the city with another prospective buyer in tow.
At Monday’s North Branch City Council meeting, Sergey Nazaranka, CEO of a company called BKAHA TLNB, Inc., addressed the council, asking its members to consider the sale and subsequent liquor license transfer from current owners Kathy Peterson and her husband to him.
“We have everything in place, and we filed the application,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why we cannot proceed forward.”
In a letter to the council, Peterson stated the sale of Tower Liquors to Jerry’s Foods—the entity that owns County Market—was terminated at the end of last year.
The letter goes on to state Peterson is “ready to retire now” and she, like Nazaranka, sees no reason why the business cannot be sold to BKAHA TLNB, Inc.
At the end of the letter, Peterson asks the potential sale be considered at the March 25 council meeting.
The council came to a consensus it could discuss the issue at that meeting, but Mayor Ron Lindquist warned that the council should receive word from Jerry’s Foods that the sale between it and Tower was indeed terminated before the city takes any action on the issue.
“Let’s get some response from them,” Lindquist said. “We have notified them so many times, and they have not responded. I just don’t want to get the city in a bind here.”
Water and electric rates increasing
Council members noted their concern about water and electric rates increasing.
Mark Petsche, general manager of North Branch Water and Light, told the Post Review last week that on average, residential rates will be increasing by 8 percent for electric, with commercial increasing about 7 percent and large industrial increasing 7.5 percent.
For water, he noted the average household uses about 6,500 gallons a month. For those users, rates would increase by 15.46 percent, which equates to an $8 rise.
Residents who use the minimum amount of water—3,000 gallons—will see a 14.39 percent increase, a $4.50 spike.
The council noted Water and Light is a separate entity, and voted 4-0 to add the increase to its fee schedule.
City administrator Bridgitte Konrad called that action a “formality,” because the city does not dictate how Water and Light sets its rates.
Finance Director Richard Hill explained the increases are to meet bond obligations.
“We’ve been raising the water fees steady since last year, basically to pay off the bonds,” Lindquist said. “And there is probably going to be another rate increase.”
Hill explained the city’s water system has been underfunded in its operating income to the tune of about $500,000 to $600,000 a year, and those losses can’t be sustained.
“The bond covenance requires that you cover 100 percent of a certain number,” he said. “That is the debt plus 10 percent.”
Council member Trent Jensen expressed his concern about the increases.
“My understanding is that North Branch already has pretty high water costs,” he said. “I guess I’m concerned. I don’t have anything to do about it right now, but I’m just concerned.”
Lindquist suggested the council get together with representatives from Water and Light at a future meeting to talk about how the city might address possible future increases.
“Water and light is in the same predicament we are, and all of this evolved from getting into the planned development business,” he said. “And now we’re paying the price for those decisions made years ago.”
At the end of the meeting, the council came to a consensus to again have fireworks on the 4th of July at North Branch Area High School.
The council directed staff to find a pyrotechnics company to perform the show.
Funds for the show would come out of the fire relief budget, which, in part, is funded by charitable gambling.