The board that oversees the former Amoco refinery site agreed to kick another half million dollars into a controversial business incubator project at a special meeting held Wednesday night.
But before they voted for it, they voted against it.
The Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board had the meeting to discuss a proposal from that board's chairman, Scott Sissman. Under his proposal, the Amoco board would add $500,000 atop its $1.5 million contribution in an effort to replace federal money in the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance's incubator project with local money.
That would give CAEDA the chance to give the federal Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development back their combined $2.5 million and start the process over following Wyoming state law, which gives in-state contractors a 5 percent cushion when competing against out-of-state contractors.
Sissman's proposal failed before one of the "no" votes, Tim Stirrett, asked to change his mind, saying he had been confused by the proposal. It passed 4-3 on the second vote.
Local governments have been attempting to steer tax dollars towards local contractors after they were shut out of a lucrative "construction manager" position that would oversee about $8 million worth of construction.
The $10 million project uses $2.5 million of federal money, which prevents CAEDA from giving local contractors a preference in bidding out the construction of 11,000 square feet of renovations and about 30,000 square feet of new construction.
In addition to the $2.5 million of federal money, the Wyoming Business Council contributed $4.5 million and other local governments and businesses have donated money as well. When completed, the building will lease space to young businesses and put them in contact with professional services with the goal of increasing their chances for survival.
The federally approved process for hiring the manager, which included contractor interviews in front of local architects and public officials, recieved loud and at times contradictory criticism from local business owners incensed that a Casper development group would choose three out-of-state contractors as finalists for the manager position.
Sissman said the project was in jeopardy over the impasse between contractors and CAEDA officials, who met last week to discuss their differences. That meeting only "hardened" the positions of both sides, Sissman said.
"If we don't give them the money, then this house of cards will fall apart," Sissman said. "If this falls apart there are two choices - no incubator, or push it through ... and just take the heat. I think those are the two choices unless someone can come up with another way to come up with some money."
Sissman's proposal calls for another $1.5 million contribution from the city of Casper, which has only a $150,000 committment to the project, and another $500,000 from the Economic Development Joint Powers Board, which has pledged $1.5 million to the project.
Sissman said the proposal was hashed out at a meeting Monday with other public officials representing entities that had money tied up in the project.His proposal aims to piece together funding to replace 20 percent of the money CAEDA is relying on for the project.
The development agency had successfully lobbied different boards and governments for money, and news of the federal grant money was celebrated by CAEDA because it put the agency at its fundraising goal.
If the different governing bodies agree to Sissman's proposal, the bidding would start over using a "fixed price" bidding process after plans for the project are complete, and any savings would return to the three boards increasing their contributions to the project.
Board members said they expected all parties to agree to the plan.
Under Sissman's proposal, none of the new money could be used by CAEDA to deal with lawsuits or other fallout from the process that CAEDA would abandon by accepting this money in place of the federal money.
The Amoco board also has to approve a contract outlining their conditions.
Robert Barnes, president and CEO of CAEDA, declined to comment on the board's action Wednesday night.
Reach city reporter Pete Nickeas at email@example.com or (307) 266-0639. Read more about Casper politics and government at http://tribtown.trib.com/redtape