Loan for Seranya move, expansion wins convoluted approval

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – It only took two votes, some time on the table and a late-night longdistance phone call.

At the end of it all, the City Council Tuesday approved a $50,000 revolving loan for Seranya Studios owner Susan Radke to move her business to the vacant former convenience store/gas station at the corner of Eastern and Highland avenues and expand it.

The loan was originally approved by the Revolving Loan Fund Committee in August, but council action was waiting on the submission of required documentation by Radke.

The loan was originally approved by a vote of 4-3, with aldermen Jack Fernsler, Shawn Marcom and Jim Sedlacek voting no and David Williams absent.

That came after Radke told the council that she had submitted all the required paperwork to Mel Blanke, a Revolving Loan Fund Committee member and its legal counsel. Blanke was out of town and not at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Radke said the new venture, which will include a coffee shop along with the art studio and classrooms, would mean nine new employees eventually.

But later in the meeting, Alderman Charles Hansen – who voted to approve the loan – moved to have it reconsidered.

“I have concerns about this financing,” explained Hansen. He added, “These (loans) usually come to us cut and dried.

“I’m not really against the project, but I’m really concerned about it not being signed, sealed and delivered,” Hansen continued.

“In the past, this stuff has been much more buttoned up by the time it gets to the council,” Marcom agreed.

Marcom then moved to table the loan approval, with only aldermen Jim Faller and John Nelson voting not to table. That meant the issue would be unresolved until Jan. 10, since the council typically only holds one meeting in December.

At that point, Radke appealed to the council to reconsider, as work has already begun on the conversion at the new location and the revolving loan is the last remaining part of her financing.

She blamed the length of the negotiations over the lease with the building’s owner for much of the delay in the loan request coming to the council.

“You still have assurances if any of the contingencies don’t happen, you don’t have to issue the money,” she reminded the aldermen.

City Clerk/Treasurer Patty Huberty said that while she had some of the required documents, others had not been forwarded to her yet by Blanke.

That prompted a long-distance call to the attorney, who confirmed by speakerphone that the other pieces of the financing for the project were in place, including bank and private financing.

Sedlacek noted that several on the council had concerns about other revolving loans for food-related businesses that have failed in the past.

“I believe the committee was impressed by (Radke’s) plan incorporating the coffee shop and art gallery,” Blanke responded. “My recollection was it was a very positive response form the committee and they felt it was a risk worth taking. I’m not going to say it’s completely without risk, but every one of our loans has a risk.”

The council then voted unanimously to take the loan request of the table and approved the loan again, this time by a vote of 5-2, with only Fernsler and Marcom voting no.

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