The groundbreaking has been set for Medient Studios’ massive development planned in Effingham County.
Effingham Industrial Development Authority members approved a revised memorandum of understanding with the filmmaker, pushing the closing date back to Aug. 19, and set an Aug. 29 ground breaking for the project. The studio will invest $90 million in the county and is expected to have at least 1,000 employees within five years.
According to the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March, the studio and the IDA were scheduled to have their closing Wednesday on the more than 1,500 acres at the IDA’s Interstate 16 north tract. That date is 120 days from the MOU signing.
“The closing was contingent on a couple of things,” IDA CEO John Henry said.
The IDA received a revised master plan and a revised development schedule for Medient, and the studio asked to have the closing pushed back a month as the IDA reviews the documents. Several studio executives also are Hindu, and Hindus are on the verge of entering the holy month known as Shavran Maas, when no property transactions can take place.
The IDA’s property committee of Charles Hinely, Dick Knowlton and Jimmy Wells will meet within the next week to review the master plan and development schedule. The IDA also wants to bring in county staff and county commissioners to be part of the process.
“The county’s got to be on board with this,” IDA member Leon Zipperer said.
“They have to be on it 110 percent. If it grows, it’s going to be a benefit to the county,” IDA member Charles Hinely said.
As part of the MOU, the IDA has to extend water-and-sewer service to the project’s first phase. IDA member Chap Bennett questioned if the authority could deliver the water and sewer service needed, and Henry said they could for the first phase of the project.
The IDA has a 500,000-gallon tank on the tract and has 150,000 gallons per day in water capacity from which to draw. It also has plans to build a package wastewater-treatment plant that will treat sewage to reuse levels.
“The big issue is going to be the disposal at the wastewater-treatment facility and how quickly they can build facilities that can use tertiary-treated wastewater,” Henry said.
How much capacity the wastewater treatment plant will have also has to be determined, which will determine its final cost.
“Anything above and beyond our capabilities with water and wastewater treatment are contingent upon an intergovernmental agreement with the county, and the company being a part of it, too,” Henry said. “We need to make sure the county understands what their needs are and what our limitations are.”
Under previous agreements, the IDA will build the wastewater treatment plant, which then will be turned over to the county operate.
“We’re still not going to be a water-and-sewer provider,” Henry said.
“We are not in the water-and-sewer business,” Zipperer said.
“And don’t want to be,” said IDA chairman Dennis Webb.