Pine River-Backus: School board approves Blackline tax abatement

Pine River-Backus fifth and sixth graders with the elementary student council made a presentation Oct. 21 to the Pine River-Backus School Board. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
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The final taxing authority - the Pine River-Backus School Board - met no resistance Monday, Oct. 21, at a hearing on whether to authorize a five-year tax abatement for Black Line LLC on the north end of Pine River.

During a 5 p.m. hearing on the abatement, the only one present was Mike Paulus of the Cass County Economic Development Corporation, who was prepared to answer questions about the abatement. Like the taxing authorities that approved the abatement previously, there were no attendees at the hearing.

The city of Pine River granted the abatement Sept. 10 with Cass County following on Oct. 1. Of the three taxing authorities, only Cass County had one dissenting vote. Discussion among the county board included concerns that the business itself would be responsible for self-reporting its increased hiring and wage levels, both of which were conditions attached to the tax abatement agreements.

Blackline LLC was requesting the abatement for a 24,000-square-foot expansion on its current travel trailer finishing business. The expansion enables Blackline to contract with Yetti Outdoors for finishing the interiors of its fish house travel trailers along with Voyager Industries of Brandon, Minnesota.

The abatement grants Blackline LLC a reimbursement of all of the new property taxes from the business for the first two years of its operation. In year three, 75% of those taxes will be reimbursed to the business with 50% in year four and 25% in year five. On year six the business will pay its complete share of property taxes to the Pine River-Backus School District, city of Pine River and Cass County.


The abatement does not apply to Blackline's current property in Pine River, only the new taxable property, thus none of the taxing authorities are losing property taxes through the abatement.

In exchange for the abatement, the business must create and maintain at least 25 full-time jobs within 24 months and pay at least $15-an-hour wages. The business is expecting to pay significantly more for some of its positions.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Met representatives of the elementary student council. Seven students presented their contributions to the school, including describing their involvement in Daybreak with Dads and Mornings with Moms, their guidance for ROAR rallies and other popular events.
  • Learned that Pine River-Backus special education staff and Paul Bunyan Cooperative received a certificate of achievement from the Minnesota Department of Education for ensuring individual student due process records meet or exceed requirements.
  • Rescinded the hiring of Brenden Bruss as a long-term substitute teacher after Bruss took another position elsewhere.

  • Accepted the resignation of Dawn Martin, custodian.

  • Approved hiring Randy Schwegel as varsity girls basketball coach, Tucker Sheley as assistant girls basketball coach, Jordan Ackerman as junior high girls basketball coach, John Riewer as varsity boys basketball coach, Michael Dinnel as assistant boys basketball coach, Travis Hoffarth as varsity wrestling coach, Tom Demars as assistant wrestling coach, Justin Franke as assistant wrestling coach, Patrick Foster as junior high wrestling coach and Jennifer Anderson as speech coach.

  • Approved a June 2021 French class trip to Quebec to lock in a low price for travel arrangements.

  • Approved a band trip to Orlando, Florida, and a cruise.

  • Approved a master agreement with the Pine River-Backus Principals' Association.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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