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IDA waits for answers on Medient master plan
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While Effingham Industrial Development Authority members expect to get the master plan for Medient Studios’ project, they also still have a slew of questions.

Effingham IDA CEO John Henry said at Tuesday’s board meeting there remain several issues for Medient to address before the IDA can consider approving the master plan. Medient officials and their contractors have to finish a development schedule, revised job creation figures, capital investment commitments and a supplemental agreement, Henry said. The IDA also has to work on the supplemental agreement, but the other issues are up to Medient to complete.

Jake Shapiro, the new Medient CEO, presented a revised concept for the 1,550-acre tract off Interstate 16 and Old River Road last week.

“We literally started back at square one a week ago,” Henry said.

As IDA members asked for a task list and who is responsible for completing those tasks, Henry reiterated the bulk of them lie at the studio’s feet.

“We do not have a task list,” he said. “As soon as we get a task list, we can start tracking tasks. We don’t have a development schedule. A supplemental agreement would address most of those concerns. Until we have that, we don’t have anything to track. They’ve got to get us enough information so we can pull that together.

“Once we have those things, we can go through and check it off,” Henry added. “That is what everybody is wanting to see and we want to see something where we can tick it off and see if it’s being accomplished, and we don’t have that yet.”

Shapiro announced last week plans to build an office building and two soundstages before the end of the year. A development of regional impact proposal has to be submitted to the Coastal Regional Commission and then to the state Department of Community Affairs for review. A DRI is submitted by the county and does not have to come through the IDA.

“There are questions on the DRI and the time frame for that,” IDA Chairman Dennis Webb said.

Once it is submitted, the state has 90 days to provide its answers, according to Henry.

“We hope their engineers and general contractors are looking at those things,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into developing a 1,500-acre site that we’re not going to be able to hold their hands on.”

IDA and Medient representatives have agreed to hold weekly meetings or conference calls to get updates on the progress of the outstanding issues.

“I don’t know how we can track and keep up with all those things,” said IDA member Chap Bennett. “Some of them are connected. I also believe we have to drive a certain amount of that. Even though we may not have the authority to do certain things and make certain things happen, we have to be the ones keeping track of it and making sure it happens.”

Bennett added the board needs to make sure the plan works for the IDA and is in the community and tax digest’s best interest.

“What I don’t want to do is sit down at the September board meeting and say, ‘here’s the development schedule, here’s the master plan’ and have some expectations we’re going to make a decision in five to seven minutes around those things,” he said.

Medient also has to address other concerns, such as the water and sewer capacity and demand expected for the project, and how it will be phased.

The supplemental agreement could turn into a revised memorandum of understanding, Henry said, noting the original document signed by the IDA and Medient nearly 18 months ago. The supplemental agreement will outline the dates and requirements on both sides and Henry said there then could be a separate amendment to the MOU.

“The application hasn’t been submitted yet,” Henry said of the EDGE grant. “We’re not going to engage the grant writers until we have the information to submit for the application. The state’s agreement has always been independent of ours. The state incentives require the jobs to be created first.”

Henry said the IDA is not obligated for any expenditures until it has what it needs from Medient in hand.

“The ball is in their court,” he said.

Medient also is lining up financing and capital for the project but those announcements are not ready for disclosure, Henry said.

“We have a lot of questions,” said IDA member Jimmy Wells, “but until we get more information, we’re just spinning our wheels.”