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Former senator wins grant for road work

Jay Wasson receives $152,400 for Nixa project

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The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission recently approved a $152,400 grant proposed for road work in Christian County.

Former state Sen. Jay Wasson, who owns real estate company Wasson Family LP, was granted the matching funds, which will pay half the cost of adding a right-in/right-out intersection across from Nixa’s Village Marketplace on Highway 160.

Representatives of the transportation commission confirmed the approval for Springfield Business Journal, though minutes from the Jan. 8 meeting were not available online by press time.

Wasson said the construction will provide access to a lot he sold in October 2019 to CoxHealth for a new facility, as well as access to additional acreage he owns, which will open the space to development. With that construction comes the need to address stormwater issues, which Wasson said will cost him another $1.5 million out of pocket. No timeline has been set for the projects.

Under Gov. Mike Parson’s transportation cost-share program, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Development selected 20 applicants to receive $50 million in funding, according to past SBJ reporting. The projects then went to the transportation commission for final approval.

Commission representatives said the approved local transportation projects – one each in Nixa, Ozark and Springfield’s Galloway Village – totaled $2.4 million in state matching funds for various road work projects expected to create economic development.

Funding search
Wasson said the conversation for grant funding began when CoxHealth purchased 5 acres from his family’s real estate company in 2019. No offers have been made on the additional acreage, he said.

“The city and county were highly interested in getting the jobs and the clinic but wanted access to [Highway] 160,” Wasson said. “But about 70% of the water that’s in Nixa runs through that property – it’s a huge amount of stormwater. … It’s going to be an extraordinarily expensive project.”

He said that’s why Andrea Sitzes, president and CEO of Show Me Christian County, stepped in to find a grant program to help with funding. Parson’s transportation cost-share program was created to fund road work that would lead to economic development, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The roughly $300,000 road project, which Wasson is personally matching funds for, will take place on Highway 160 across from Bair’s Sports Grill at 701 N. McCroskey St., Sitzes said. It will not create a four-way intersection.

“Because of the placement of the other signals on the highway, (the Missouri Department of Transportation) will not approve another full intersection,” Sitzes said. “This project will access the developable property off 160. … It’s a little tedious to get there as of right now, so there will be two points of access once it opens up.”

The road work will be near the CoxHealth construction, where hospital officials are planning a $10 million “super clinic,” according to past SBJ reporting. The 30,000-square-foot facility will provide primary and urgent care, pediatric offices and physical therapy.

CoxHealth spokeswoman Kaitlyn McConnell said general contractor J.E. Dunn Construction Co. is awaiting permit approvals from the city before beginning work. She declined to disclose the purchase price of the land.

Christian County Assessor records show that Wasson Family LP owns two parcels off of Highway 160, totaling almost 24 acres. Wasson said about 3 acres is used for drainage, and the total platted commercial property is roughly 14 acres, including CoxHealth’s land.

He said a portion of the proceeds from his land sales will go toward matching the grant’s funding.

Sitzes said the road work is important for further business development in Nixa, which she said is mainly a residential city.

“Our residents largely work outside the county,” she said.

“In the city of Nixa, the land that’s left along that 160 corridor to develop is few and far between. This is one of the only prime real estate parcels left in the city, and being able to access that increases the ability to build out more Class A office space, more inventory for buildings … and I’m sure there will be a retail component.”

The city of Ozark also was selected for $726,800 in funding for improvements to McCracken Road and North Third Street, according to past SBJ reporting. The improvements are aimed to increase access to the Finley Farms development.

In Springfield, Galloway Street was targeted for the largest local grant, at $1.5 million, for widening work between Luster and Lone Pine avenues. It’s a $5 million project that calls for roundabouts at Luster and Lone Pine, upgraded stormwater infrastructure, railroad crossing improvements and a path connecting the Ozark Greenways trail and Sequiota Park, according to past SBJ reporting.

Construction is expected to start in the fall. Voters in April renewed the city’s quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax, which will help fund the Galloway Street project.

Government relations
Wasson and Parson are longtime peers.

He served in the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate alongside the current governor, and in 2018, Wasson resigned from the Senate months ahead of his term limit to accept an appointment by Parson to the Missouri Tourism Commission, according to past SBJ reporting.

Also, Parson recently appointed Wasson to the Missouri State University Board of Governors, where he’s taking over the seventh district seat on the 10-member board.

“It’s always been something in my area of interest and that I’ve always cherished because I think it’s a great university,” Wasson said of the MSU appointment.

Wasson said his relationship with Parson did not impact the grant funding.

“It had absolutely zero to do with it,” he said. “I didn’t call anybody. I didn’t tell anybody in Jeff City I was doing it. It’s a legitimate grant, I’m a private citizen – I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do it.”

Declining to disclose the asking price for the additional acreage, Wasson acknowledged that the combined $1.8 million project will be a positive development for his property.

“It’s absolutely going to help me,” Wasson said of the projects.

“I was able to sell Cox, and hopefully other lots, but I think the grant’s purpose was to create economic development and that’s exactly what it did.”

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