From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

House Says MU Can Lease Land

April 17, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau

Sponsor:Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia
Description:allows MU to lease land
Current Status:gained House approval today
Next Step:needs Senate approval

JEFFERSON CITY - MU would be able to lease land at the intersection of College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard under legislation that received House approval Wednesday. The university plans to allow bid proposals to build a hotel convention center complex on the land and use the revenue to build a performing arts center.

With no one voicing opposition on the House floor, the proposal passed by a vote of 127 to 30. "When you look at the merits of it I think it's pretty noncontroversial," said Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Columbia. "I think the overwhelming support shows it's a good idea."

"I was very pleased that people's concerns about the university in other areas did not affect this bill," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia. She later said she was specifically thinking of the KOMU controversy when she made those remarks.

Wilson said the hotel convention center will require no state money. "The University will have no financial involvement, no operational involvement," she said. "It will be totally private enterprise."

Wilson said both the state and Columbia will gain money from the 50-year lease agreement because the owners of the hotel convention complex will pay property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes. The property is currently exempt from property taxes.

But House Republican Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, said she thinks whoever receives the land will have a competitive advantage by getting a low lease rate.

"My main concern is that the university would be giving a financial advantage to one hotel," she said.

Not so says university system lobbyist Jim Snider."I don't believe there will be any unfair assistance to whoever gets the bid."

Hanaway said she is also concerned that the state would have no control over how MU spent the money it earned from the lease agreement.

"The university would get to spend it at its discretion rather than being appropriated by the legislature," she said.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Crestwood, said he opposed the proposal because he thinks it is unnecessary. "The school enrollment is stagnant, but our expenditures increase dramatically," he said. "We keep building buildings every year."

Over the past 20 years, MU's enrollment has remained fairly steady. It fluctuated only slightly from a high of 24,972 in 1990 to a low of 22,136 in 1994.

"The use of this land is not relevant to students," Wilson said. "It's a way the community can get additional cultural resource, additional taxes."

She said MU has been trying to get a performing arts center for at least 20 years. "This arrangement will allow them to get one without asking the state for money."

Said Farnen, "I think it's a great deal for the university."