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Lee County Board Will Not Seek Financial Info on the Mills Group

Daily Gate City
Keokuk Steel Castings

The company attempting to purchase Keokuk Steel Castings will not have to reveal any additional financial information to the Lee County Board.

Brad Mills of Houghton, Iowa asked the county for $200,000 so his company, the Mills Group, could purchase the former steel foundry, which closed this year, leaving several hundred people out of work.

The county board agreed to loan the money to the Lee County Economic Development Group (LCEDG), which would, in turn, pass it along to the Mills Group. LCEDG would then repay the county within three years.

LCEDG Chairman Joe Steil told the county board during this week's meeting that his group transferred money from its own account to the Mills Group in late September and was waiting to be reimbursed by the county.

When discussing the reimbursement, County Board Chairman Ron Fedler expressed his concerns about the Mills Group's finances. He said LCEDG should not be reimbursed until Brad Mills provides the county with a letter that states his group has secured all of the money needed to purchase Keokuk Steel Castings.

“If it was my $200,000, I would want to know before I actually gave it out whether [the sale] was definitely going through,” said Fedler.

Fedler's request would have been an addition to the loan agreement between Lee County and LCEDG. But it was denied by the other four members of the Lee County Board.

The other members said they were worried that the letter could have a negative effect on the potential purchase.

Steil tried to reassure the county board about the purchase, stating the Mills Group has secured most of the asking price and is exploring multiple funding opportunities.

“So at this time, it’s still looking very promising that they are going to be able to be up and operating [soon],” said Steil.

Steil said time is of the essence for the Mills Group because -- according to Steil -- production must get underway in the next couple months to meet permit requirements.

There was also a question raised about the risk of the county losing its $200,000.

Steil said LCEDG's agreement with the county states LCEDG does not have to repay the county if the Mills Group is not able to repay LCEDG. County board member Gary Folluo responded that if the county does not get its money back within three years, it could withhold its annual contributions to LCEDG.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.