The Phelps County Commission asks Phelps County elected officials to recommend action on the proposed “Enhanced Enterprise Zone.”


  Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp asked Phelps County elected officials on Thursday for their recommendations regarding the feasibility of the Enhanced Enterprise Zone that was proposed by representatives of the Cities of Rolla and St. James at the beginning of the month.


  In a regularly scheduled, monthly, Phelps County Officials’ Meeting, Verkamp showed the officials the map of the proposed area that includes some portions of Phelps County, Rolla and St. James, with a significant tract of land between the two communities that is being considered for “Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ)” status.


  Although Phelps County will schedule public hearings on the proposal, Verkamp explained, the Commission sought input from other Phelps County elected officials.


  No objections were raised during the meeting, but some of the officials admitted they had never heard of the project and questioned what it was about.


  Verkamp explained there were both pro and con arguments to designating portions of Phelps County as EEZ, including a concern of property owners who may not desire a business or industrial complex moving within close proximity to their homes.  However, on the pro-side of EEZ, Verkamp said, new business would provide new jobs.


  As described by Rolla Regional Economic Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Bax, when she first approached the Commission with the idea of the EEZ at the beginning of the month, the land designated EEZ by the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) would offer economic incentives for companies to either open, move or expand their businesses to a location within the EEZ for purposes of increasing new jobs and private investment, which also would create new state and local tax revenues.


  The primary incentive offered to companies either relocating or expanding in the EEZ includes tax abatements, 50-to-100 percent, for a minimum of 10 years, in some cases, based upon how many extra jobs will be created.  Additionally, tax credits from DED, generally two percent of payroll and one-half percent on new investments, are granted at the discretion of DED, depending upon the quality of the project and additional factors.


  Bax had stressed that having a community designate certain portions of their geography an Enterprise Zone had nothing to do with annexation, planning, zoning or a designation of blight.


  “We’re not controlling their land,” Bax had said.  “This is not TIF (tax-increment financing) in any way, shape or form.”


  Furthermore, Bax had explained, no loss of existing revenue to the schools or any taxing entity would happen, as 50 percent of any new investment is better than 100 percent of no new investment.


  The incentives only would be available to the kinds of businesses that governing authorities in Rolla, St. James and Phelps County would define – and not retail, restaurants or gambling establishments.


  Bax had asked the Commission for a formal endorsement by May 20.


  Other items discussed in the monthly Official’s Meeting included the following:


  • The Commission approved continuing to manage the grants received by the Juvenile Division of the 25th Judicial Circuit Court.


  Three grants were awarded by the Office of State Courts Administrator, Division of Administration and Budget, including a one-time expenditure for the purchase of court security-related equipment for $4,000, the implementation of juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention programs and services for youth who are under the supervision of the juvenile and family court for $10,725, and for the creation and implementation of domestic relations programs for $20,000.


  When asked by the Commission how the Juvenile Division was progressing, Russell Shelden, chief juvenile officer for the 25th Circuit Court, stated that, although juvenile delinquency was on a downward trend, the cases of abuse and neglect seemed to be much more serious than they used to be.


  • The Commission also welcomed a new University of Missouri Extension employee, Chantae Alfred, family financial manager.