The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 3, 2013

Joplin City Council to consider advancing new library project

By Debby Woodin
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Resolutions advancing a new $38 million public library and theater complex as the city’s first tornado redevelopment project will be considered tonight by the Joplin City Council.

One of the resolutions on the agenda would approve a memorandum of understanding between the city and the board of trustees of the Joplin Public Library outlining terms for the project.

The agreement states that the library will be provided a 55,000-square-foot building at the northeast corner of 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue. It is to be fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, be compliant with requirements for access by the disabled and have parking.

The library will hold a 99-year lease on the building with an option to purchase it after 20 years. The library will pay its own utility costs, provide maintenance and insurance for the building, and pay $1 a year for the lease.

In exchange, the library board will give the city the title to the property at its current location at Fourth and Main streets.

A resolution of support for a $20 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration that would pay most of the cost of the new library also will be considered. That resolution sets out the funding for the project. The library will cost about $25 million, and the city’s share of that will be about $4.5 million plus the land value of about $500,000. The city’s share of the building cost will come from bonds that will be issued in connection with the newly created tax increment financing district in which the library will be located.

The federal grant would be used on that portion of the project.

A movie theater is to be built as a second floor of the library with $13 million in revenue bonds from the TIF district. The theater will be owned by the city, and the lease payments from it are projected to finance bond debt, according to the plan developed by the city’s contracted master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, of Sugar Land, Texas.

Neither the library’s board president nor librarian Jacque Gage could be reached Friday for comment on the agreement. The library board last month passed a resolution supporting the plan and agreeing to issue a letter of support to the Economic Development Administration for the project.

The EDA provides money to stimulate economic development in distressed cities.

Council member Mike Woolston, who was mayor at the time the proposal was first developed, said Friday that he had not read the agreements entirely, but he added, “I would not have a lot of concern” about the terms of the deal or the financing. “It’s about what I would have expected. I know from previous discussions that revenue bonds would finance part of the project and that bonds would be issued on the TIF district.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce said he did not have concerns about the agreements.

“I think the money that is going to be used for the project comes from the EDA grant and the rest of the money from the TIF,” he said. “I really don’t have a problem with TIF money being spent in the tornado zone.

“Twentieth and Connecticut is right at the heart of ground zero” in the tornado zone. “My concern is and has been taking money that has been given to us because we had a tornado and it being spent in areas that are not in the tornado zone.”

In a related matter, the council will be asked to approve the addition of an accounting position in the city’s finance department to handle TIF district accounting. That position is expected to cost $43,000, but there are provisions for the city to receive an allocation for TIF costs from the TIF district’s revenues.

Time and place

The Joplin City Council meets at 6 p.m. today on the fifth floor of City Hall, 602 S. Main St.