A state lawmaker has requested documents from two state agencies regarding how the state awards brownfield tax credits, after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported taxpayers lost millions in one project.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

That Post-Dispatch article says a consultant, Environmental Operations, Inc, was hired to attempt to secure state money to help pay for redevelopment of the site of the Northwest Plaza in St. Louis. It said that project would require asbestos removal measures, making it eligible for brownfield tax credits.

The article says Environmental Operations designed the demolition project, managed the bids and awarded itself the project while not telling the state about another, lower bid. It also says the firm, when requesting bids, also overestimated by more than two times the amount of asbestos that would be removed, causing other bidders to submit accordingly higher bids.

The article quotes one expert as saying the award of tax credits in that case was unfair to competitors and could violate federal law.

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) says there appears to be a lack of oversight.

“A lack of ensuring that folks doing these projects are carrying them out in a fashion that is going to be most beneficial to Missouri taxpayers.”

Barnes has asked for documents from the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Natural Resources laying out how Brownfield tax credits are designed to work, criteria for their award and in what amount, and how projects are followed up on to make sure assertions made in a bid application are complied with and work done is on a high quality and done at the least possible cost to Missouri taxpayers.

Barnes says the appearance of a lack of oversight makes this situation similar to the failed Mamtek sugar plant project in Moberly that his Committee on Oversight and Accountability investigated beginning in 2011. He doesn’t know if this is a situation that will lead to similar hearings.

See Barnes’ requests letter to DNR, and to DED.