Saturday, October 15, 2016

Midway part of proposed deal to build gas line to Midway Station, to ensure Lakeshore plant comes

The Midway City Council will be asked to put $450,000 toward a natural-gas line to Midway Station to keep Lakeshore Learning Materials from backing out of its plan to build a distribution center that would employ 262 full-time workers.

Columbia Gas estimates the line will cost $2.8 million and has promised to pay $700,000 toward it. The state will pay $1,350,000 and the Woodford County Economic Development Authority will pay $300,000, money that it was saving to bring gas to the industrial zone anyway.

Midway is expected to get about $200,000 more per year in payroll taxes from the plant and the American Howa auto-parts plant under construction, but in return for its gas-line contribution the EDA has agreed to give the city any profits from the sale of the remaining 22 acres of land it bought from Jim and Marilyn Roach.

"Midway has stepped up to the plate," EDA Chair John Soper said. Lakeshore would be the city's largest employer by far.

Midway apparently won't have to come up with the $450,000 all at once, because Lakeshore is expected to advance $2.1 million to Columbia Gas and be repaid by the state and Midway as long as it provides the promised jobs. Soper said the deal works because "The payroll taxes will always exceed what the expenditures are to bring the gas in."

Chair John Soper, left, and other EDA board members listened as EDA
attorney Bill Moore, right, explained the proposed deal Friday morning.
Soper spoke after meeting Friday morning at which the EDA approved several measures to accomplish a deal that it thought was done in August, when Lakeshore and the state announced the plant was coming.

Soper said Lakeshore's consultants were told that only a 2-inch gas line would be available, from the other side of Interstate 64, and that American Howa was meeting its gas needs with propane. But he said Lakeshore didn't express a need for gas until "after they had made the announcement." He added, "I guess . . . they realized it was critical for them to have it."

That prompted a flurry of activity, including a special and largely confidential City Council meeting, at which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was authorized to take actions designed to bring Lakeshore to Midway.

"It's taken more than a few 180-degree turns, but they're a good company, and it's a good thing for the community," Soper said. "It's been a booger, but it's a $49 million project."

Now the council will be asked to approve the deal, which EDA attorney Bill Moore said is scheduled be closed on Tuesday. "Lakeshore is anxious to get an agreement signed," he told the EDA board.

Soper said Lakeshore has agreed to buy another 18 acres and take an option on 15 more acres owned by the Homer Michael Freeney Jr. Trust, which is selling Brown-Forman Corp. 117 acres for whiskey warehouses near South Elkhorn Creek. He said Brown-Forman will use the gas line, making construction of more warehouses more likely.

Soper said EDA has agreed to ask that the 33 acres now owned by Freeney be rezoned industrial, and that Midway's urban services boundary be expanded to include it. Plans also call for the city to annex the property.

Soper said the gas line will make the property more salable for industrial development. "We've got to get this burden of not having gas in Midway Station out of the way," he said.

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