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IDA, DP Partners closing in on final deal
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The Effingham Industrial Development Authority and DP Partners continue to be sold on each other, as the IDA and the national developer firm have ironed out a sellers work program.

The IDA extended its due diligence part of the deal with DP Partners. The due diligence period exists so the IDA can show to DP Partners that the property is capable of serving its intended purpose.

“We don’t want to buy that property until we know,” said Jeremy Merklinger, DP Partners Southeast region manager. “We’re at 98 percent.

“We’re encouraged. We’re moving forward,” Merklinger said. “What has been accomplished is far in excess of what is to be accomplished.”

DP Partners is looking at what needs to happen before the closing, he added.

“There’s a laundry list of things that had to occur prior to our purchase of the property from the IDA,” Merklinger said.

There is a lot in the sellers’ work program that both the IDA and DP Partners recognize is beyond the board’s control. The IDA is waiting on the state Environmental Protection Division to perform its design review of the planned wastewater treatment plant and for the state Department of Transportation to figure out its state aid projects.

“Jeremy has expressed the concern of their senior management, and (they know) it’s no fault of the IDA’s,” IDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said.

Henry said DP Partners is willing to put up $175,000 in earnest money as a show of good faith.

Of the two tracts of the project straddling I-16, DP Partners wants to develop the southern one, the smaller of the two, first. But infrastructure improvements must be done.

A change in state Department of Transportation leadership has meant a change in the way things are done as the DOT has undertaken a thorough review of what it has on the table.

“The state aid programs used to be expedited,” Henry said. “Now they have to go through the chain of command.”

In a draft seller’s work program for the southern tract, the IDA is to provide water, sewer, road improvements, power and communication. To get those utility lines to the southern tract, the IDA is planning to drill under I-16. Plans call for a 250,000 gallon per day wastewater treatment plant to be built on the northern side and for the IDA to provide 150,000 gallons of water per day.

The IDA, DP Partners, engineering firm Moreland Altobelli and the county have worked on an access management plan.

“Everything we’ve been working on has been designed,” Merklinger said. “The next critical step is approval. We believe in the design. We feel confident in the approval of the roadway improvements.”

The state Environmental Protection Division has the plans for the wastewater treatment plant in hand and is working on a design development report.

“I don’t think anything has jeopardized the project or what we said we were going to do,” Henry said. “The wastewater treatment plant is taking a little more time than we thought.”

Each project — from the road work to the water system to the wastewater system to drilling under I-16 — also as a different set of engineers.

“We’ve got four different engineers working on this and that. Keeping up with that is a job in itself,” Henry said.

Cost estimates also spun quickly out of control for certain items. “A $2 million project to run a water line down a gas line easement became a $9 million project overnight,” Henry lamented.

That also meant “scrambling” to secure a two-year temporary permit for the 150,000 gallons of water needed, Henry added, before the IDA, Springfield and the county put together their agreement to provide water to the I-16 tracts and allow Springfield to move its wells out of the EPD’s “red zone.”

“It took months to get those intergovernmental agreements done,” he said.