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Special session bill changes Legacy Fund Advisory Committee

Backers of Bison World will make their pitch next month to a revised advisory committee.

The backers of Bison World will likely make their pitch for financing to a revised Legacy Fund Advisory Board after actions by the special session of the North Dakota Legislature this week.

Bison World is a planned $72 million theme and cultural park planned for southeast Jamestown. The intent is to capitalize on Jamestown's identity as the "Buffalo City" to create a world-class attraction to draw tourists from the area.

The park would occupy land currently used as pasture by the National Buffalo Museum adjacent to Interstate 94.

"It's helpful," said Brian Lunde, one of the backers of the project, "but we still have a process in flux."

A bill to improve the process for North Dakota projects to receive financing from the Legacy Fund has seen several versions during the process of the special session of the North Dakota Legislature this week.

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Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, introduced a bill, assigned the title House Bill 1512, that formed a new committee and a subcommittee to create a method for North Dakota projects to apply for Legacy Fund financing. This bill provided clarifications on how North Dakota projects could seek financing from the Legacy Fund. Access to the Legacy Fund for North Dakota projects was mandated by House Bill 1425 that was passed and signed in April during the regular session of the Legislature.

That bill provides that a percentage of the Legacy Fund be invested in North Dakota businesses and projects. The bill provided methods for some of the investments but did not specify a path for applicants for a 7% portion of the Legacy Fund that amounts to more than $700 million.

The final version of the bill approved by the Joint Technical Corrections Committee expands the advisory board but does not include any sort of "fast track" for considering North Dakota projects, Lunde said. That version passed the North Dakota Senate by a 46-1 vote Friday morning.

At about 12:30 p.m. Friday, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed the bill 85-2. The bill still requires the governor's signature to become law.

"It changes the makeup of the Legacy Fund Advisory Board but doesn't create a vetting committee to review projects," Lunde said. "It gives us a new group to talk to."

The changes to the committee and the possible development of processes to apply for financing come as the Bison World project is nearing completion of its planning stage, Lunde said.

"On Dec. 1 we will have the complete plan to submit for review," he said. "It will include blueprints, financial projections and all the other details about why this is a good plan."

Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., said the preparations have included the design plans from Apogee Attractions and financial projections from Eide Bailey.

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"We are ready to go for it," she said.

Planning for the project began in the fall of 2019 and has been funded by the JSDC.

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Related Topics: JAMESTOWN
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