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Changes in proposed lease put development corporation plans on hold

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The Watertown Industrial Center board took no action Tuesday morning on moving ahead with plans to renovate space at the Starbuck Avenue facility for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp.

The WIC board tabled the lease agreement for the 4,700 square feet of space, with hopes of continuing talks with JCLDC on the deal.

WIC board Chairman Donald W. Rutherford recommended the two economic development agencies continue negotiations on the base rent that the JCLDC would pay. The WIC board informally agreed that talks should continue.

Under the agreement, the JCLDC is lending $350,000 to the WIC with 3 percent interest to pay for the construction of the expansion next to its location at Building B in the industrial center, 800 Starbuck Ave.

But Mr. Rutherford suggested “a chargeback” on the 3 percent interest. Otherwise, the JCLDC would end up paying only for the project’s construction and not a base rent.

“I’m concerned there is a perception that there is no base rent associated with the project,” Mr. Rutherford said, adding that the WIC would just keep the 3 percent interest on the loan.

Without amending the lease agreement, the JCLDC would pay $2.74 per square foot that goes toward water use, maintenance, taxes and other expenses. The WIC board also will consider a $100,000 loan to the JCLDC to go toward the construction costs for the nine new offices in the expanded space, Mr. Soluri said.

The delay in approving the lease agreement comes just a few days after the Times learned the JCLDC was approached by the developers of the planned $12.8 million restoration of the Lincoln Building about relocating there before it decided to stay put on Starbuck Avenue. The agency also looked at several other downtown sites, but also passed on them.

Mr. Rutherford and William J. Soluri, the industrial center’s site manager, plan to get together soon with Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the JCLDC, to discuss the proposed change in the lease agreement.

If the two sides agree on the change, the WIC board may schedule a special meeting before the end of the year to ratify the lease agreement.

The JCLDC plans to move into space now occupied by Environmental Spill Products; that company would be required to move under the plan. Now leasing 2,200 square feet of space at the WIC, the JCLDC needs more room as it expands its staff to nine employees.

Other tenants over the years have had similar lease agreements with the WIC paying for facility renovations and the incubator benefiting from an improved facility, Mr. Soluri said.

Until March, the JCLDC and its affiliated organization, the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, oversaw the industrial center’s operation. But the WIC severed ties with them as part of a reorganization.

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