BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – The Southeast Iowa Regional Economic and Port Authority has stepped up to purchase the former KL Megla building in Montrose.
The building is located just across Hwy. 61 from the Dollar General on the north side of the town.
The purchase is to support a potential future Lee County Joint Education Center and is supported by Lee County Economic Development Group. It was financed in a 36-month purchase agreement with Connection Bank.
During a meeting of the SIREPA board on Wednesday, the board approved the purchase agreement with Connection Bank after Requests for Proposals were sent out by the board.
The board got two proposals, the other was from MidWestOne Bank.
The Connection Bank proposal was for $1 million over three years at .9% interest with no closing fees on the agreement.
LCEDG has been spearheading the efforts to create the Joint Education Center with input from area industries and businesses as well as Keokuk, Fort Madison and Central Lee school districts and Southeastern Community College.
“SIREPA is happy to purchase the building to help the proposed Joint Education Center project become a reality, which is important to all of Lee County,” said Denise Boyer, SIREPA board chair.
The port authority is a municipality of the state formed under Chapter 28J of Iowa Code. Lee County, Keokuk and Fort Madison jointly formed the organization in 2006. SIREPA is governed by a six-member board of directors appointed by the two cities and county and is administered by Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.
The building purchase is a milestone project for SIREPA and should set the stage for additional projects benefiting Lee County in the future, according to SIRPC Executive Director Mike Norris. Supporting the planned Joint Education Center is in the SIREPA strategic plan.
The purchase of the KL Megla building was delayed at the start of the year when Central Lee pulled it’s support for the project, however conversations with the three districts have resumed again. According to Iowa code Central Lee would have to sign off on the Joint Education Center because it falls within that school district. Any instruction taking place within a school district requires authorization from the district.
LCEDG President Dennis Fraise said last fall the LCEDG board voted to support non-educational operating expenses at the center for the first two years, raise funds to retire the mortgage on the building, and establish a charitable trust for the education center.
The terms of LCEDG’s support were not revealed in open session at the SIREPA board meeting on Wednesday, but a closed session was held prior to approving a resolution to purchase the building with LCEDG’s support and Connection Bank’s financing. Mike Hickey, a SIREPA board member who sits on the Connection Bank board of directors abstained from the vote.
Other project areas in SIREPA’s strategic plan are deploying new broadband infrastructure and removing obstacles to capital investment for new economic development projects.