VP in group proposing vision, dental co-op owes $59,000 in real estate taxes

Sunday, December 26, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about the nature of the incentives has been corrected.

Cape Girardeau officials have known for more than a year that one of the vice presidents of a proposed downtown health care cooperative has a history of not paying property taxes on time.

John P. Wyman, listed as the co-vice president of Hometown Holding Group LLC, is delinquent on many taxes owed to the city, county and state, according to county tax records. Wyman's company, Merriwether Investments, owes $59,582.23 in real estate taxes from 2009 on 24 properties in downtown Cape Girardeau, including the buildings currently leased to Hometown Holdings group.

Merriwether Investments had its sales tax license revoked in January and has two state sales tax liens totaling $2,755.20, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue. Wyman also owes the Missouri Division of Unemployment Security $2,264.95 in payroll taxes, according to state Department of Labor records.

"My involvement in Hometown Holding Group is not related to personal taxes I owe or my business owes," Wyman said. "I am actively engaged in resolving these matters."

City officials said news of a developer's criminal past took them by surprise earlier this month, but they can't say the same about Wyman's tax history.

The city of Cape Girardeau, which will not issue business or liquor licenses to a business owner who owes back taxes, endorsed a $750,000 loan sought by Wyman and Weaver Dickerson, whose history of writing $96,000 worth of bad checks was reported by the media, resulting in the state announcing last week it was pulling economic development incentives worth more than $2 million.

City officials have dealt with Wyman's failure to pay property taxes before.

"We've had conversations with Mr. Wyman for some time. Back in June, he had some businesses seeking liquor licenses and he's since sold them," city manager Scott Meyer said.

In June, the city council revised its ordinances to make sure that city taxes, fees and utility bills are paid before it issues a business or liquor license.

Meyer said he relies on the Chamber of Commerce and the area's industrial recruitment organization, Magnet, to examine the details of proposals it brings to city hall.

Missouri's tax credit application documents require that "active owners" are not late on property taxes, but the state on its website defines an active owner as having at least a 20 percent stake in the company.

10 stakeholders

In documents obtained by the Southeast Missourian, 10 stakeholders, including Wyman, each have 10 percent membership interest, all putting $250,000 cash toward the development.

On the company's grant application, Wyman listed $6.33 million in land and buildings as collateral for the Watch Me Smile dental/vision cooperative project.

"Business licenses are coming up for renewal, and we have had conversations with him again," Meyer said. "He is going have to take care of outstanding taxes if he wants to keep his business licenses."

Mayor Harry Rediger said he was aware of Wyman's involvement with this project early on and his failure to pay property taxes.

"If we were to give them any city tax abatements, those would have had to have been brought up-to-date, but we never did get that far," Rediger said.

Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Magnet, said in more than 25 years in economic development this was the only time he had seen the state pull incentives.

"At our next board of directors meeting an agenda item will be our policy on review and investigations of individuals and companies that are interested in moving to our area," Robinson said. "The board of directors will make recommendations on the depth and method of review of these interested parties."

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

325 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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