Christian County will do its part in a public-private partnership to attract guests to what is planned to be Ozark’s star attraction.

As renovation and development continues at the old Ozark Mill, a landmark that will be the focal point of Bass Pro Ships’ Finley Farms development, Christian County joined two other government agencies in partnering with Bass Pro to fund transportation projects on and around Finley Farms. The work will include the preserving of the historic bridge over the Finley River.

Developers from Bass Pro Shop have the majority of the stake in a development plan to fund the street improvements around the Ozark Mill, including the preservation of the Ozark Millpond Bridge.

The bridge carries McCracken Road across the Finley River between the Mill and Finley River Park. The bridge is so synonymous with Ozark that it is featured on the official city seal, it is frequently the subject of art and. photography and it hosts charity events like the Sertoma Duck Race and the James River Basin Partnership Sunset Soirée. 

Tim Mahoney, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Big Cedar Lodge, explained the share of the work that Christian County agreed to at a Christian County Commission meeting Nov. 5.

“There is roughly $4 million worth of public infrastructure to be constructed at cost. The developer is saying as a community participant/stakeholder in this, ‘We’re prepared to actually invest roughly $850,000 toward that $4 million total cost, just like we’re asking the county, the city and the (Ozark Special Road District) to similarly make contributions,” Mahoney said.

Ozark Mill, LLC, with Bass Pro Shops President James Hagale as the registered agent with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, has about a 55-percent stake in the Ozark Mill TDD. The developer asked Christian County to finance about 11.65 percent of the transportation projects tied to Finley Farms through the TDD agreement.

The county commission ratified a TDD agreement at a cost of $231,000 by a 3-0 vote.

The retail shops, restaurants and other businesses located on the Finley Farms property will assess a 1-percent sales tax on all transactions. The tax goes above and beyond what the city of Ozark and Christian County will already collect in sales tax on each transaction. The extra cent on every dollar is funded by designating Finley Farms and the Ozark Mill property as a transportation development district (TDD).

The TDD will have a 20-year lifespan.

The county commission opted to pay 50-percent of its obligation, about $231,000, up front in 2021.

Spencer Jones of Great River Engineering represented Ozark Mill at an Ozark Board of Aldermen on Oct. 19. He presented again to the Christian County Commission on Nov. 5.

“The first collections of that sales tax—the developer would be reimbursed their portion of the cost first, and the remaining funds beyond that are distributed to each one of the partners on a prorated basis,” Jones said. “After the developer has captured their portion of the sales tax, the remaining sales tax that Christian County would collect—and these are projections—would be $372,000.”

Christian County, based on the projections, would recoup $372,000 over 20 years to recapture 80.5 percent of its requested commitment to the TDD agreement.

“Over the life of the TDD, the county will actually capture an additional $2.5 million in sales tax. Now, that sales tax is the 1/2-cent sales tax for general revenue, 1/2-cent sales tax for the road and bridge, and then two quarter-cent sales taxes for law enforcement, so when you look at that, for every dollar that you spend to support this transportation development district, there is $4.50 that is being provided to other regions of the county in regards to improving those services or maintaining the services that you offer,” Jones said.

The Ozark Board of Aldermen voted 6-0 to approve a resolution that establishes a transportation development district (TDD) with Ozark Mill, LLC.

In 2017, the Missouri Department of Transportation rated the structural integrity of the 100-year-old Millpond Bridge "poor," which could result in its permanent closure. MoDOT recommended Ozark consider planning to replace the bridge. However, due to rising flood elevations and modern construction requirements, Ozark would have to purchase private land in order construct approached to a new bridge. A new bridge in the same location was determined to be financially unfeasible. 

According to the National Bridge Inventory, the McCracken Road Bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was built in 1922. In 2017, it had an average daily traffic count of 1,500 vehicles. The bridge is 204 feet long with a 19-foot-wide deck. The superstructure is made of steel trusses, which offer a vertical clearance of 14 feet.

The Finley Farms development plan calls for a restaurant, a speakeasy-style bar, agricultural farm development, river access and nature trails. The historic Ozark Mill is slated to be made into a restaurant. A chapel is under construction on the southeast bank of the Finley River across from the mill.

The mill has been in Ozark since the town was settled in the 1830s. It became known as Hoover’s Mill. Bass Pro Shops developers are working to preserve as much of the history as they can as the building is revitalized.

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