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Economic development project tests new lawmakers

   

WASHINGTON, Mo. — About a week before his election to the state senate, Dave Schatz was endorsed by the Washington Missourian, one of the larger papers in his Franklin County district.

Schatz
Schatz

The reason for Schatz’s endorsement was stark in the Oct. 30 editorial.

“We endorse him for what he isn’t — a rank ideologue.”

The paper wasted no time in clarifying that they were comparing Schatz to his bomb-throwing predecessor, Brian Nieves.

Nieves was a ferocious ideologue on the floor and in the press during his time in the senate, a vocal proponent of nullifying federal gun laws and the other conservative measures.

Nieves, who lost a primary race for County Recorder in August, opposed targeted state tax cut programs for real estate development for low-income individuals or seniors on the basis that the state shouldn’t be “picking winners and losers”.

While Nieves may have beeen content to see Franklin County be losers next month, several new elected officials are hoping that Franklin County is a winner at next month’s MHDC meeting. The region is on the cusp of getting its next substantial economic development  project, and it’s potential construction would probably not be possible at all without new lawmakers in the region like Senator elect-Schatz, the Mayor of Washington Sandy Lucy, and state representative-elect Justin Alferman.

“These kinds of projects aren’t possible unless you have a good relationship with your representatives in Jefferson City,” said Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy. “All politics is regional, and so it’s very hard to do business if someone refuses to come to the table because they are completely opposed to something immediately. There has to be that open dialogue there and it’s important to maintain those relationships.”

The project, Riverbend Estates, will have 48 units for elderly residents. 12 of the units will be 1 bedroom while 36 will be 2 bedrooms. The units will specifically be designated for residents aged 62 and older who can demonstrate a need for affordable housing.

Washington has a need for the development, according to local demographics, about 20 percent of the population is over the age of 62 and only one other LIHTC project has been approved in the area since 2002.

Alferman
Alferman

Newly elected Rep. Justin Alferman says he supports the project in its current form. “This project is clearly fitting a need in the community and is a good use of those tax dollars. And if it is right for the state and right for the community then it’s something I’m going to support.”

Most of Alferman’s district consists of the city of Washington, and he says he fully supports the project in its current form and plans on asking local city elected leaders directly how he can help advance the development as a state legislator.

In previous sessions, some of the more liberal Republican senators wanted to target tax cuts for developments like these in moves that would grow other government programs such as Medicaid and the Department of Revenue. Schatz said he would be exploring the process by which developments are approved and said he would likely include a letter of recommendation in the Riverbend proposal, which will ultimately be decided by the Missouri Housing Development Commission. Schatz who supports the development said.

“I’ll also be the first to say that I need to educate myself on that issue a little more, but if we are talking about a project with a clear benefit then I’m going to look at some ways I can be supportive of that.”