Point Lookout-based College of the Ozarks approached Springfield City Council on Sept. 9 to rezone property it owns in the Queen City with the intention of selling it.
The school owns vacant land south of the former Price Cutter store at 1720 W. Grand St. totaling 3.17 acres southeast of Grand Street and Kansas Expressway.
The rezoning request covers two single-family residential parcels making up a strip of land south of the store, said Dane Seiler, president of CJW Transportation Consultants LLC, who represented College of the Ozarks in the application. He said the rezoning requests to general retail and low-density multifamily would create three separate lots, though College of the Ozarks has no current plans to develop the property.
“Two of them will be general retail lots,” Seiler told council. “One of those general retail lots is the former Price Cutter building and then a piece of this general retail that we’re asking to be rezoned.”
Reached after the council meeting, College of the Ozarks Public Relations Director Valorie Coleman said the college plans to sell the property. Coleman said via email 12 acres at the corner was bequeathed to College of the Ozarks in 2012, but the donation didn’t include the former Price Cutter building. She declined to disclose donor information.
According to the Greene County assessor records, Walter Vinton previously owned the acreage before the college.
The former Price Cutter store had been marketed for sale at $3 million, though a listing by Jared Commercial Real Estate LLC does not currently appear to be active on LoopNet.com. The listing does not appear on Jared Commercial’s website, and company officials could not be reached by press time.
A sign for Thessing Commercial Realty LLC agent Brad Thessing for all 12 acres is on the property, though it’s not listed on LoopNet.com.
Thessing said his listing is active, and expects a national retail tenant by year’s end. Seiler told council there’s a prospective user for one of the lots.
Councilman Mike Schilling asked about the property’s tax status since it is owned by a higher education institution.
“I would assume if they’re using it for a college purpose, they’re going to be exempt, but I don’t know for sure if this one is,” said Springfield Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith, also noting a traffic study would be required.
Coleman said Price Cutter is paying taxes to the city on the property as the company still owns the building.
Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning bills Sept. 23.
In a unanimous vote, the city is not renewing the municipal ordinance for disclosure of personal financial transactions for council members and city candidates, along with certain city employees.
The decision transfers enforcement of such disclosures to the Missouri Ethics Commission, said City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader.
The MEC has a four-page long form for filing financial interest statements.
“It’s better for transparency,” Councilman Craig Hosmer said. “We shouldn’t be the judges of our own ethics. That should be the Missouri Ethics Commission.”
State law was amended in 1991 to allow municipalities to adopt their own financial disclosure ordinances and it required renewal every two years. The bill had been renewed each time since 1991, Lewsader said. Per Missouri law, a decision had to be made by Sept. 15.
Personal financial interest statements include income, sole proprietorship and other business ventures and stock shares of a company of 2% or more, according to city documents.
Springfield’s ordinance did not include penalties for noncompliance, Lewsader said, and it hasn’t since adoption in 1991.
“Under state law, there are penalties for failure to timely file,” she said. “If it’s a city employee, they would lose their compensation until they corrected the situation.”
Now, continued failure to file after notice could lead to suspensions of city officials or council members under state law, she said. Council candidates also could be disqualified from consideration.
Under the MEC, a late filing fee of $10 per day also is charged, and it increases to $100 per day after 30 days’ notice. The fines cannot exceed $6,000, Lewsader said.
Council will review the ordinance in 2021.
City Utilities budget
City Utilities of Springfield Chief Financial Officer Mike Finch presented its annual budget to council for a first reading.
The budget estimates $643.5 million in receipts in fiscal 2020, with nearly half expected from electric bills. Miscellaneous billings, which include financing proceeds, interest income, customer contributions for service extensions and capital grants, make up 18% of receipts, followed by natural gas at 14%, according to the budget.
“That’s a little over $100 million higher than what we have in the current year’s budget, and that really is because we put in the 2020 plan a $90 million financing fund for the fiber expansion project,” Finch told council.
CU officials in August announced a $120 million fiber network project through its SpringNet division in a public-private partnership with CenturyLink Inc. According to city documents, $90 million of the plan is debt financing and $31 million is a capital improvement allocation. The project is estimated to begin in 2020.
“This annual operating budget will allow City Utilities to begin the SpringNet fiber expansion project, making our city truly a gigabit city,” Joe Reynolds, CU’s board chairman, said to council before Finch’s presentation.
Gigabit refers to high-speed internet running at a gigabit, or one billion bits, per second.
The budget estimates $588.7 million in expenditures for 2020, with fuel and purchased energy accounting for 28% of total capital expenditures. SpringNet makes up the largest portion of capital expenditures at 35%, according to the budget.
“That’s about a $38 million increase over the current year’s budget,” Finch said. “We are planning on spending about $31 million on the fiber expansion project, so that takes up the majority of the increase.”
There will be no base rate increases for the next five years, Reynolds said.
Renewable energy is projected to make up 40% of electrical needs for the 2020 budget, Reynolds said.
The fiscal year for CU begins on Oct. 1. Council is scheduled to vote on the budget Sept. 23.
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