Interchange agreement made official

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Four local entities strike deal to make East Main Street interchange a reality.

Jackson Mayor Paul Sander waited about 10 years for this.

In a room crowded with some of the area's most important dignitaries, developers and politicians, Sander, dressed in a brown sports coat and an American baseball tie, could finally announce Wednesday what he's been working on for so long.

The East Main Street interchange is coming.

"I believe this will be one of the most progressive, positive things we all will be a part of during our tenures," he said.

Although the interchange has been Sander's pet project since he was elected in 1993, he certainly couldn't accomplish the project alone.

The project was supported by five government entities -- the city of Jackson, the city of Cape Girardeau, Southeast Missouri State University's foundation, Cape Girardeau County and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The project is estimated at $5.8 million. Of that, MoDOT will pay half. Of the other $2.9 million, Jackson will pay 34 percent and the remaining three entities will pay 22 percent each.

In a worst-case scenario, that comes to an annual payment of roughly $73,000 per year for Jackson and about $53,000 per year for the others.

Included in the intergovernmental agreement is a transportation development district. The transportation district, much like a sewer or water district, is a group of property owners that has agreed to self-impose a special tax. In the case of this transportation district, a one-cent sales tax will be added to purchases made within the district surrounding the interchange. Also, property owners have self-imposed a 10 cent per $100 assessed valuation property tax to help with improvements.

Exactly how much money each entity will end up paying will be determined by how quickly the land develops.

Tom Ludwig, Jackson's city attorney, said that he's proud that the agreement was made without placing any tax burden on the school district.

"The reason we're using the TDD rather than a TIF or another instrument, is that Cape, Jackson and the county, especially Paul Sander and [city manager] Jim Roach early on refused to build this on the backs of schoolchildren," Ludwig said.

The project is touted as a transportation need that could provide an economic boon to the cities and university.

The university owns 350 acres of what used to be the university's farm. Southeast has since bought another farm for its agricultural studies program.

A portion of those 350 acres will be used to develop a life sciences research complex. University president Ken Dobbins said the university is already using one of the lots to research vineyard production practices. He said most research parks are roughly 60 acres. The land that's not used for research will be developed for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Developer Earl Norman was also pleased with the end result. He owns land on one-fourth of the interchange. One of the last sticking points to the project was MoDOT's intention to take about two-thirds of one of Norman's lots for right of way. In the end, MoDOT said it didn't need quite that much land.

For Cape Girardeau's part, Mayor Jay Knudtson said the project will be beneficial for his city because the population is growing northward. As part of the arrangement, the east side of the interchange will be annexed into the city. LaSalle Road will also be built.

Gerald Jones, the county's presiding commissioner, said he's been asked many times why Cape Girardeau County would get involved in this project.

"Well, last time I checked," he said, "Jackson, Cape and the university ... all three of these entities are in Cape Girardeau County."

Commissioner Larry Bock, however, disagreed. He did not attend Wednesday's news conference.

"The project, it'll be good, very good for the citizens of east Jackson," he said. "But as far as the county is concerned, I don't feel the county can afford it at $70,000 a year for the next 20 years or whatever it is. Not only that, we've got 420 miles of county roads and approximately 90 miles of that isn't paved. And we've got a whole list of folks who call me almost every day who want their roads paved. I feel we ought to put our resources towards our roads also."

Work on the interchange will begin in 2007 and be completed in 2008.

University officials expect some research park development to be completed by the time the interchange is finished.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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