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IDA lands back on prospect’s radar

POSTED: January 23, 2014 8:26 p.m.

A prospect that has been in hibernation for quite a while has asked the Effingham Industrial Development Authority to extend an option on land.
IDA members approved Project Camp’s option for 50 acres in the Research Forest Tract. Extending the option comes at no additional cost to the IDA, CEO John Henry said.
“It’s a very significant project,” he said.
Yet Henry acknowledged landing the prospect is far from a sure thing.
“It has about a 10 percent change of coming to fruition,” he said.
The IDA also is pushing ahead on obtaining necessary wetlands permits, under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ domain. While wetlands permits for the Interstate 16 south tract are completed and in hand, Henry said he wants to secure those permits for all the IDA’s holdings.
“We have had meetings with the engineers and the environmental guys on the 404 permits to get all wetlands issues behind us in one fell swoop,” he said.
The IDA lost some acreage at its Governor Treutlen site when the land was ruled to be jurisdictional wetlands. However, that land wasn’t planned to be developed, Henry said. Research Forest Tract, he added, has been waiting on attention.
“I think it needs a fresh set of eyes again,” he said.
Henry also cautioned that a master plan for Research Forest Tract may be needed before submitting a wetlands permit request to the Corps.
“Once it goes there, you may not be able to change it. And that scares me to death,” he said. “Once you tell the Corps this is it, that’s it. It’s a good thing to have all that work behind us. But we don’t know where the roads are going to be laid down, where the rails are going to be laid down.”
The IDA also received at its last meeting its annual audit. Donald Caines of Caines Hodges said there no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies and had a few recommendations in his management letter.
“We had no disagreement with your management,” Caines said. “We had some things we recommended to management, to enhance controls.”
Specifically, Caines advised the IDA to make invoices more descriptive. On invoices for engineers, the bills said they were for general consulting.
“I don’t know what that is,” he said. “Two months later, you might not remember what it’s for. Actually describe what they did, if it’s for I-16 or another project.”
Caines explained that doesn’t mean the IDA was overbilled or anything was wrong. He also said all invoices need to have a signature to indicate approval.
“That’s not to say it was a fraudulent expense,” he said. “But the project manager or the CEO needs to approve. You don’t want anything like that to happen. It wasn’t isolated, but it wasn’t pervasive, either.”
He also suggested having such receipts as those for meals and hotel stays show more detail. He also said most receipts will just show a total, rather than a breakdown of individual meals.
“If it’s a meal, I expect to see who was there, what was ordered and what was discussed,” Caines said.

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