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City Beat: New full-time jobs with benefits planned for Buc-ee’s travel center

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A Texas company is looking to build a mammoth gas station in northeast Springfield at the intersection of Interstate 44 and Mulroy Road, across the interstate to the north from TLG Peterbilt’s local operation.

Buc-ee’s Springfield LLC proposes a 53,000-square-foot travel center and 100-pump vehicle fueling facility on the site. At its regular meeting Jan. 10, Springfield City Council heard a request from Buc-ee’s officials for an infrastructure reimbursement agreement. After a property purchase, Buc-ee’s intends to return with a proposal for a community improvement district. Both instruments would pay for public improvements estimated to cost $8.2 million.

Some $4.1 million of interchange work would be provided by the IRA. The work includes eastbound and westbound on-ramps and off-ramps, including landscaped roundabouts for each, and improvements to the existing bridge.

The IRA would capture half each of the 1-cent general sales tax and quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax. The agreement has a term of 20 years and includes an interest rate on the unpaid balance of 2%, with a cap on reimbursement of $4.1 million.

Through an IRA, the developer designs, funds and builds specific public improvements and is reimbursed through sales taxes generated by the development, according to the explanation of the resolution provided by city staff.

Council will vote on the IRA Jan. 24.

If the project advances, the Springfield Buc-ee’s will be the first in Missouri, offering gas to vehicles (no tractor-trailers are allowed), as well as barbecue, a jerky counter, fudge, kolaches, house-made potato chips and an assortment of home and kitchen goods, outdoor equipment and clothing.

The tastiest selection for city development officials, though, is the 175-225 new full-time positions the store would offer, with a starting hourly pay rate of $15-$17 plus paid health care, 401(k) plans and three weeks of paid vacation.

Additionally, the development on 1,000 acres would provide City Utilities of Springfield water and three-phase power service north of I-44.

Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner said 88% of Buc-ee’s customers come from at least 20 miles away.

“They’re not going to cannibalize local convenience stores here in Springfield,” she said.

The average visitor group spends $100 per visit to the store, Kerner said, and estimated annual taxable sales, not including gasoline, are $30 million.

Kerner showed before-and-after photos of other towns where Buc-ee’s had located. A Terrell, Texas, development grew from farmland and a single small building prior to development to a fully built-out shopping center, including a movie theater – “which I’m not sure we’re going to see at Mulroy Road,” she said.

Council also was briefed on the proposed Cottle’s Range Community Improvement District, which would impose a district sales and use tax at a maximum rate of 0.63% on retail sales made in the district.

The CID would reimburse costs for improvements to North Mulroy Road and new construction of a Buc-ee’s Boulevard, as well as public utilities extensions. The total budget for these projects is $5.1 million.

Since Buc-ee’s has not yet purchased the property for the proposed gas station, a CID cannot yet be fully crafted.

City Manager Jason Gage said the interchange, combined with utilities, including water and sewer infrastructure, would open the whole area up for development.

“We weren’t able to do that before,” Gage said of the utilities extension.

Councilperson Mike Schilling expressed concern over stormwater runoff, which might ultimately end up in Fellows Lake, Springfield’s drinking water source. Gage replied Buc-ee’s would have to follow the code that the city has in place right now. He added this consideration is addressed with any commercial development.

Councilperson Richard Ollis viewed the proposed development as an obvious benefit to the city in an area that is currently producing no sales tax.

“I am having difficulty understanding why we’re not jumping up and down at a project like this,” Ollis said.

Zone 2 Councilperson Abe McGull pointed out that the project will not only employ up to 225 people when finished, but it also will require the work of local builders.

Councilperson Matthew Simpson said residents often talk about poverty in the city, noting the best thing the city can do is incentivize employers who are willing to pay a higher wage.

“Hopefully, it has a multiplier effect and begins to bring wages up,” Simpson said.

Mayor Ken McClure expressed his support for the project.

“We are pleased and eager to welcome Buc-ee’s to Springfield,” he said. “This will have a very positive and lasting impact on us.”

Stan Beard, director of real estate for Buc-ee’s, said it takes about 13 months to build a Buc-ee’s, which he acknowledged has a big footprint.

“Dare I say we’re the Bass Pro [Shops] of the convenience store world,” he said.

Addressing Schilling’s concern, Beard said the company’s drainage plans address all required mitigation, detention and treatment, and the city’s drinking water system will not be at risk.

He added Buc-ee’s has raised the bar for convenience stores.

“We’re not a pull-in-and-buy-a-can-of-Copenhagen store,” he said. “We’re a pull-in, oh-my-gosh-I’ve-just-spent-$150-at-Buc-ee’s.”

Other action items:

  • A council ordinance, to be voted on Jan. 24, would increase Gage’s salary to $246,313 from $236,824. His salary last was increased in August 2021. Gage was hired in June 2018 with a base salary of $220,000.

Council also will vote on raises for other city employees totaling $739,300, as well as  American Rescue Plan Act-funded retention payments for police, fire and health department workers in the amount of $17 million.

  • Council approved agreements with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to add new sidewalks and repair existing ones along Glenstone Avenue, with the city contributing $315,000 of Surface Transportation Block Grant-Urban funds and $79,000 from sales taxes and already-budgeted sidewalk buyout funds.

A similar agreement was OK’d for Kansas Expressway in the amount of $749,000 in STBG-U funds and $150,000 in sales tax and buyout funds.

  • Gage reported the Springfield Police Department had received $600,000 in grant funds from the Missouri Foundation for Health to start a mobile crisis team to respond to mental health emergencies.
  • Council also approved a $501,000 Rent Relief Airport Rescue Grant, part of the ARPA, from the Federal Aviation Administration. The funds will provide rent relief to airport concessionaires.

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