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One year later....Motown is silent

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A year ago this week, a Michigan-based group told Vandalia officials and local residents that they expected the construction of a $300-million sports and entertainment complex to be under way by this spring.

A year later, city officials are still waiting for officials from that group to return a number of phone calls and e-mails.

It was on May 18 of last year that city officials and representatives of Motown Technology & Sports Facility Inc. from the Detroit area signed documents for a 2-million-square-feet facility on 150 acres of city-owned land south of the city’s western Interstate 70 interchange.

Motown Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Bardwell said the facility would include a 9,000-square-foot arena, 300-room hotel and a bicycle-manufacturing facility.

But since that council meeting, signs that the project would not become a reality continued to come.

The agreement that officials from Motown and the city signed last May required the Michigan group to provide proof of financing by Oct. 1 of last year.

Motown officials notified city officials that they would be attending the Oct. 5 city council meeting to request an extension, but their visit was postponed due to family matters.

The group returned with a revised plan at the beginning of December, and the council approved a revised agreement that gave the group an additional six months to provide proof of financing.

Included in the revised agreement was a stipulation that Motown reimburse the city for a $17,500 traffic study the city had performed for the western interchange area. Bardwell pointed out at that meeting that he had brought along a reimbursement check.

But the city learned a few days later that the check had been returned. While the bank stamp on the check noted that it was returned due to insufficient funds, Vandalia Director of Economic Development JoAnn Sasse Givens said she had been told that the problem was that Bardwell did not have supporting signatures on it.

Motown officials told The Leader-Union at that time that the group’s directors would meet in the near future to approve proper authorization for a new check. But the city has not received a replacement check.

At the urging of Alderman Mike Hobler, the council agreed to have its attorney to review the issue.

Mayor Rick Gottman said this week that the city has turned over all documents related to the project to its attorney.

“We’ve asked Jack (Johnston) to look at all of our options and to talk to the state’s attorney about any possible legal action,” Gottman said.

Those options, he said, could include an attempt to recover the funds spent on the traffic study, either through civil or criminal action.

“We will have no contact with them except through our attorney,” Gottman said.