Havre council approves funding for Call Solutions
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A routine vote by the Havre City Council to reimburse Call Solutions for training expenses prompted a discussion Monday about the city's decision to invest in the business.
The council unanimously approved a request by Call Solutions, formerly Advantage Line, for reimbursal of $20,000 from Community Development Block Grant money.
The money will reimburse Call Solutions $2,500 each for eight employees who have completed 600 hours of training at the company's expense, Bear Paw Development Corp. employee Annmarie Robinson said today.
Employees receive paid training at the company's Holiday Village Shopping Center location, Robinson said. Upon completion of the 600 hours, the employees receive a wage of $7.15 per hour, she added. Employees must be paid that amount or the city won't compensate the company for the training.
Mayor Bob Rice recommended the council approve the request and said he has done extensive research on the company and its operations.
"I have been up there myself on several occasions," Rice said. "I spent four hours one day just reading the file."
Rice said today he felt obligated to check out the company since the contract with the city occurred prior to his taking office.
"This didn't happen on my watch," he said, "but I think the council at the time probably took an objective look at the proposal and decided it would be a good thing for the people of Havre."
Rice said Call Solutions has about 120 employees, 50 of whom are full time.
Resident Charles Grant spoke against the proposal. He said he has been to Call Solutions on a weekly basis.
"I have never seen more than about four people wandering around up there," he said.
Grant urged the council to verify how the $20,000 will be used.
"They constantly advertise for employees, but they're not hiring, they're just going through people," Grant said.
Bear Paw Development Corp. encouraged the city to obtain a Community Development Block Grant on behalf of Call Solutions about two years ago, Robinson said.
"Call Solutions is an inbound call center," Robinson said. "They are not telemarketers."
Robinson said the company takes calls for mail order companies and now services 15 to 20 accounts.
Mark Hardy, vice president of inbound centers for Call Solutions, could not be reached for comment today.
Robinson and Rice both said they think the company is doing what it originally intended to, which is to employ people in Havre.
"This does create jobs in our community," Robinson said.
Rice added, "If they have 50 full-time employees up there, that's 50 Havre people that would be out of a job or looking for work elsewhere."
Rice invited Grant to visit Call Solutions' facility with him on Thursday.
"Meet me in my office," Rice said. "We'll go up there and maybe we can answer some of your questions and address your concerns."
The City Council also agreed to allow Northern Montana Hospital to use the city's tax-exempt bond status to obtain $2.5 million in financing.
The funding will allow the hospital to purchase a new MRI and a new CT scanner.
The hospital will be responsible for repayment of the debt.
"Even under default, there's no way the city would be obligated," Rice said. "It's a good deal for the community. I think we're all going to benefit from it."