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Ownership of MSP, old St. Mary's site at issue under Transformation

Ownership of MSP, old St. Mary's site at issue under Transformation

Voters question property ownership

January 29th, 2012 in News

This aerial file photo from April 2011 shows St. Mary's Health Center as it sat in a triangle bounded by Missouri Boulevard at left, U.S. 54 at right, and U.S. 50 at the bottom of the picture.

Photo by Stephen Brooks

With just more than one week to the election, many voters are still trying to get a clear picture on what Transformation projects will entail and are beginning to get down to the details.

Some of the biggest questions being asked of the Transform Jefferson City campaign pertain to ownership of the properties where the largest projects are being proposed.

Transformation is the economic development strategic plan put forward by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. If passed Feb. 7, the sales tax would raise more than $41 million to complete a list of 30 projects around the city.

A frequently asked question is who will retain ownership of the old Missouri State Penitentiary site, now owned by the state, if Transformation passes.

Campaign co-chairmen Ken Hussey and Phil Freeman said the state would retain ownership of the historic site, while the city would receive a long-term lease to operate tours and use the area for community events. The city would also receive a title to land for a conference center, if the MSP site is chosen, as well as right-of-way for new roads, all of which is stated in the non-binding memorandum of understanding signed by the Office of Administration.

Ed Williams, with the opposition group Citizens for Fair Tax, said the memorandum of understanding with the state does not seem substantial and legislators or the governor could easily back out of the agreement.

Also in the memorandum, which Chamber CEO and President Randy Allen called "an agreement to agree," is all areas designated in the master plan for private development would be transferred to the various owners on a project by project basis.

At a campaign meeting last week, Allen assured attendees no one wants to take ownership of the MSP site, but they do want to ensure continued access to it.

Another frequently asked ownership issue deals with St. Mary's Health Center, after the hospital relocates in 2015. Transformation has laid out extensive plans for the soon-to-be vacant space, much of which is proposed to be occupied by Lincoln University.

Hussey and Freeman said the plan, if the tax is passed, would be for the parent company of St. Mary's, SSM Health Care, to develop a request for proposals for ownership and development of the facilities once the hospital has relocated. Both said the request would include the commitment of all the Transformation projects to be part of any proposal received, with the hope being SSM would deed the property to a private owner who will carry out the already laid out commitments.

Allen said Lincoln University would then pay a small amount of rent to the new owner for the space it uses and the owner would be responsible for all future maintenance and upkeep of the facility as a whole, while tenants such as Lincoln would be responsible for maintaining their leased space.