After weeks of wrangling and discussion, the Effingham Industrial Development Authority has given the go-ahead to a massive studioplex’s master plan.
IDA members voted 6-0 Monday evening to approve Moon River Studios’ master plan for the 1,560 acres of the IDA’s northern tract at I-16 and Old River Road. The IDA also approved a supplemental agreement to the memorandum of understanding with the studio, but IDA members held off on approving the development schedule.
“We just want some more timelines on when construction will start and how it will proceed,” said IDA Chairman Dennis Webb.
The IDA gave its tacit approval to the supplemental agreement, provided it meets the acceptance of attorney Dan McRae, who helped negotiate the original MOU. Under the terms of the draft supplemental agreement, Moon River must meet a goal of $90 million in capital investment and 527 jobs by year five. The IDA also pledges $1.25 million in site development work for an entrance road and the extension of water, sewer and electrical service.
Webb said if the studio needs to make a modification of the master plan, its officials can ask the IDA for a modification.
The IDA is expected to act on a more detailed development schedule in three weeks.
“I think we’re going to have to have the development schedule fleshed out a little more,” IDA CEO John Henry said. “There are milestones we can put in there to comply with our needs. It doesn’t have to be everything.”
Henry said the schedule goes from granting permits straight to a date of expected completion, without dates of when work will start.
“There is a very broad window of a schedule,” said Ray Pittman, an engineer and former Bryan County administrator contracted by the IDA. “John pointed it out nicely — we want to know when you’re starting construction.”
The members present at the special called meeting also discussed what to do about a potential conflict of interest. David Harris, the newest IDA member, was contracted by the studio to develop its new Web site and performed the work before being named to the board. He also hosts the studio’s site on his servers for $20 a month.
Harris disclosed his work for the studio before joining the IDA, and board members asked if Harris expected to continue working for the studio for what could be a considered a substantial interest.
If other board members agree the IDA member in question has a substantial interest, that member must not be present during any discussion or vote involving that project, Webb said.
Harris’ contract for the Web site work was for $3,250. The Web site was launched Sept. 17, and he is not doing any other project work for Moon River at the time. Harris has told the studio he is available on an as-needed basis, at an hourly rate. His server is hosting the site, moonriverstudios.com, on a month-to-month basis.
“Right now, they do not represent a significant portion of my business income,” he said.
Harris said if he has the opportunity to bid on more work in the future, he would disclose that to the board. The remaining members agreed there is no substantial interest currently, and the $20 a month is not seen as a substantial interest or conflict.