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LeClaire approves next step for Les Baer move
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LeClaire approves next step for Les Baer move

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LECLAIRE -- Although gun manufacturer Les Baer thanked the crowd for supporting him Monday evening, he said the fight isn't over.

Minutes before, the LeClaire City Council took the second step in bringing Mr. Baer's custom gun business from Illinois to the community.

The council set a public hearing for 7 p.m. May 21 in city hall on three resolutions. The first acknowledges the city's intention to sell nearly three acres of city-owned land to Les Baer Custom, Inc., of Hillsdale, for $10,000.

The second says the city intends to lease land near the proposed gun manufacturing plant for access, and the third says the city intends to enter a tax-increment financing agreement with the company.

City administrator Ed Choate said LeClaire could reimburse Mr. Baer up to about $227,000 of the estimated $600,000 construction costs for the new plant. It would be built southwest of the intersection of Iowa Drive and Eagle Ridge Road, behind the city's wastewater treatment plant.

There was a large crowd supporting Mr. Baer at Monday's meeting. Last week, the audience seemed split between those in favor of and those opposed to the company's move.

"I think everybody in here was for it," Mr. Baer said after the meeting. "I don't think I saw anybody against it."

Craig Swartz, executive director of the Iowa Sportsmen's Federation, talked to a group of people in the hallway after the public hearings were set.

"It looks like the city of LeClaire is in favor of this operation," Mr. Swartz said. "So, it would be nice if you would return on the 21st. This is government in action. The best thing is to show up here and bring some more friends."

One question that came up at the council meeting was from Ald. Debra Smith. She had concerns that the company may someday have over-the-counter sales.

Mr. Baer said that would not happen, but that he does allow law enforcement officers to come in and order direct.

One of Mr. Baer's employees, Jim Budde, said concerns over safety are understandable, but that LeClaire residents shouldn't be alarmed.

He said Geneseo has two gun manufacturers, Springfield Armory and ArmaLite, who have been there for years without any problems.

"We're not outside shooting guns in the air," Mr. Budde, a pistol smith for 12 years at Mr. Baer's business, said. "No one knows we've been there for years" in Hillsdale.

Mr. Baer has said the reasons he is trying to move to Iowa is Illinois' attempts to ban making certain types of guns and Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed gross receipts tax.

Mr. Baer said he has 16 employees, and wants to expand to 24 if he moves to LeClaire.

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