School Board Votes to Support Tax-Break Request

Article written by: Roger McKinney
Publication - Columbia Daily Tribune
Date Posted - Aug 13, 2018
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The Columbia Board of Education on Monday voted to direct President Jan Mees to vote in favor of a tax abatement for Northwest Medical Isotopes when it comes before the Chapter 100 Review Panel.

Board member Teresa Maledy recused herself from the vote because she is on the board of Regional Economic Development Inc. All six of the other board members voted “yes.”

Mees is the board’s representative to the Chapter 100 panel, which will make a recommendation to the Boone County Commission. The vote came after a presentation by Carolyn Haas, chief operating officer with Northwest Medical Isotopes and Dave Griggs, chairman of the Redi Incentives Committee.

“I use the word ‘tranformational’ for this project,” Griggs said. “This project can put Columbia, Missouri, on the map.”

Northwest is seeking a 50 percent tax abatement for 10 years using Chapter 100 bonds for its $108 million radioisotope production facility in the Discovery Ridge Research Park. The company anticipates creation of 104 new jobs with an average wage of $35 an hour. The plant will make isotopes molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m, used in medical scans for cancer, heart disease, and bone and kidney disease. Because of their short half-lives, the isotopes can’t be stockpiled and must be routinely be produced for use by hospitals. There has been no domestic production since the late 1980s.

“If there’s any upset in the supply chain, guess what?” Haas said. “We don’t get cardiac images anymore.”

The company plans to start construction in the fourth quarter of this year and begin commercial operations in the first quarter of 2021.

Haas said approval of the construction permit by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May was a big hurdle to overcome.

“We had to prove that what we were going to do is safe for everyone,” she said.

She said the process would produce nuclear waste, which would be stored on-site for about seven months before being transported to a storage location in Texas.

She said having the research reactor at the University of Missouri and MU’s Discovery Ridge Research Park were key to the company’s decision to locate here.

“This community has a ready work force,” Haas said. “It has a reactor and an engineering department.”

Haas said employees won’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree.

“You’ve really got to have that basic math, science, technology background,” Haas said.

She said the facility will produce eight ounces of liquid per week, for use in 50,000 diagnostic images. An operating permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still needed.

Chapter 100 industrial bonds are an economic development tool used by cities and counties to purchase or pay for projects with bond proceeds and lease or sell the project to a company. During the lease period, the company receives a tax break on the property.

With the 50 percent abatement, Columbia Public Schools would receive property tax revenues of $5.6 million over the 10 years.

“This is not only good for Columbia, it’s good for the state and great for the nation,” said Superintendent Peter Stiepleman.”

The library board and the Columbia City Council also will give directions to their respective representatives to the Chapter 100 board. The Boone County Commission makes the final decision based on the recommendation of the Chapter 100 board.

The school board also voted to approve a bid of $22,645,500 to build the new middle school in southwest Columbia. River City Construction, of Ashland, had the winning bid. The contract requires the project to be complete by May 1, 2020.

The school board voted to approve a resolution to increase the district’s operating levy by 65 cents as authorized by voters in April 2016. Since the election, the district has increased the operating levy 56 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, withholding the additional 9 cents until it was needed. The increase will be used to fund pay increases for all employees and steps toward a model salary schedule for teachers.

The district’s total property tax rate is currently $6.0555 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The tax rate hearing is set for Aug. 23.

rmckinney@columbiatribune.com

(573) 815-1719

rmckinney@columbiatribune.com

573-815-1719