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Heartland Port Authority gains nine members as funding search continues

Progress on the Heartland Port District, a potential multimillion dollar project with massive economic implications, made a significant jump Monday. The Jefferson City Council approved their three nominees to the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, the governing body for the port.

“It’s going to require a lot of study, a lot of work and a lot of thinking outside the box at times,” said newly appointed Rick Mihalevich, who will serve as the council representative on the board for Jefferson City.

The council also unanimously agreed to appoint local property appraiser Jim Jordan and for Public Works Director Roger Schwartze.

Cole and Callaway counties are partnering with Jefferson City on the port project, each is responsible for filling three spots of the nine-member board. Both commissions made their appointments last week:

The Callaway County Commission appointed: Roger Fischer, Western District commissioner for Callaway County; retired Army general and entrepreneur Henry Stratman and K. Douglas Mertens of Mertens Construction Company.

The Cole County Commission appointed: Kris Scheperle, Western District commissioner for Cole County, Col. Calvin Broughton and Gary Wheeler.

The project is still fundraising to pay construction costs for the project, which could range between $60 million and $90 million depending on what is actually built. The newly formed Port Authority Board of Commissioners are tasked with choosing the design and landscape of the port.

A wide range of industries in Mid-Missouri could be impacted by a new port, so leaders are considering an equally wide variety of potential partners to help finance construction.

“Now that we have (the Port Authority Board of Commissioners) established, we’ll look forward to the other steps coming into place and finding the partners to make this a reality,” said Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin.

Jefferson City, Cole and Callaway counties submitted an application for a federal “BUILD” grant, which could provide millions of dollars for building the port. They expect to hear back on the application in December.

As a political subdivision, the Heartland Port Authority could levy a local sales or property tax for funding.

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