Haslam proposes $30M in bonds to partially cover remaining Megasite expenses

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed state budget for the next fiscal year calls for issuing $30.7 million in bonds to partially cover the extra cost of making the Memphis Megasite “shovel ready.” As WPLN reports, that’s less than half the $80 million that Economic and Community Development officials said is needed.

The additional money would cover needs such as a rail spur and high-voltage power lines, infrastructure that’s long been envisioned for the site. ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe says it would also pay for wastewater treatment, the item that’s caused several potential occupants, including a Toyota-Mazda joint venture, to reject the site.

“We tell them, we’re working on it, but we don’t have a definitive date,” Rolfe said in an interview this week. “And then they ask, ‘Well when will you have your easements for land rights?’ And we say, ‘That’s in process.’

“So what we’re spending our energy trying to do is eliminate all of those hurdles.”

Since it was proposed a decade ago, the West Tennessee megasite has been rumored to be in the running for a number of high-profile investments, in sectors such as solar energy, tire-making and auto-manufacturing. Each time, those deals have gone to other locations — often elsewhere in Tennessee or in neighboring states.

That’s made the megasite a political issue. Although the project began under his predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen, Haslam been criticized for failing to close the deal on an occupant. It’s even emerged as an issue in this year’s governor’s race.

…The request for $30 million would allow them to acquire land easements and build the pipeline itself. It would also allow construction to begin, at least, on the wastewater treatment plant.

It would not be enough for the other infrastructure improvements. But Rolfe says those can wait until a company has agreed to locate on the site.

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