Board approves move to California
60 percent vote seals the deal
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) headquarters is California bound – California, Mo., bound that is.
The MBC Executive Board voted 24-16-1 (60%-40%) Dec. 10 to build a new headquarters in the mid-Missouri city located 22 miles west of Jefferson City. Two of the 43 board members present did not vote. The board in its October meeting voted without opposition to sell the Baptist Building at 400 East High St., in Jefferson City for a maximum sale price of $1.7 million to a Springfield-based company. The board also voted overwhelmingly to appropriate up to $200,000 from the convention’s reserve fund to conduct a space needs study and hire an architect to begin design of a new building, but also to postpone a final vote on relocating to California so that members could study the proposal further.
“We (the Missouri Baptist Convention) have a lot of work ahead of us. But I am pleased that the decision is behind us,”said MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver.
“We are moving to a community that is excited about our coming. I know California to be a warm and caring community that will greet us with open arms and make us feel fully welcome. I am also very pleased that we are able to remain in the Jefferson City area. My wife and I have enjoyed living in Jefferson City for just over two years and we hope to live here for the rest of our lives,” he said.
The decision to sell the current headquarters and relocate comes after an internal study showed that the structure is in need of approximately $7 million worth of renovation and that, long term, it would be more cost efficient to build a new headquarters building.
The move to California became a possibility after Kenny Vaughan of Vaughan Construction Company of California, offered to donate six acres on Highway 50 about one mile east of the city.
Members of the Executive Board received packets with details about the California offer Oct. 5, giving them two months to study the proposal, but it took them less than an hour of debate and questions-and-answers to make a final decision.
One question raised was whether Jefferson City vendors would service the Convention if it moved to California.
But Jody Shelenhamer, a member of First Baptist Church, Bolivar, an Executive Board member and chairman of the Relocation Study Committee, said the committee had contacted Convention vendors and all of them said the move would not impact their ability to service the Convention.
“The committee thinks we have hit a home run on this,” he added. “This is a great location that has all utilities – gas, electric, cable, sewer and water – in place.”
Some board members wondered if the Convention would lose any political clout by leaving the state capital.
“The legislature has approved cloning and gambling while we’ve been at 400 East High Street,” Tolliver said. “Our influence lies not in 400 East High Street, but in our churches throughout this state. And our state newspaper has said it will continue to provide the same coverage of moral issues as it always has. So no, we will not lose any clout.”
Before the vote, MBC President Gerald Davidson said he thought an overwhelming majority should favor the move to relocate. He did not say what an overwhelming majority would look like.
“If (we’re united and) we spend $10 million extra to find something better, it’s worth it,” he said.
The Relocation Study Committee surveyed 52 Baptist Building staff prior to the board meeting to determine how a move might impact them. Responses showed that 32 opposed the move, 18 were unopposed and one said it made no difference. When asked if a move to California would cause them to resign their current position, 43 responded “no,” one said “yes,” eight responded “they were not sure” or “maybe,” and three did not respond.
Prior to the vote, it was asked if there was a time limit in which the Convention had to respond to the offer for the six acres. Shelenhamer responded, “yes,” and the board then voted to go into executive session.
Tolliver said the Convention’s attention would now turn toward raising the approximately $3 million needed for the new building. He said he would immediately assemble a team of Executive Board members and professional fundraisers to begin that work and that an architect would soon be hired. He said the plan is to move into the completed California facility by the end of 2008.
An internal study by the MBC of the Jefferson City offices recommended that a new building consist of about 40,175 square feet. The current facility is 70,000 square feet, although only about 55,000 square feet are in use. Formerly known as the Missouri Hotel, the MBC acquired and remodeled the structure in 1969.
Messengers voted at the MBC’s 2003 annual meeting to authorize the Executive Board to sell the Baptist Building and look for a new location. The Jefferson City headquarters is also home to The Missouri Baptist Foundation and the Missouri Baptist Credit Union. The Foundation signed a 20-year lease in 1998. Both organizations will have the option of moving to California with the Convention.
The six acres where the MBC new headquarters will be constructed is part of a 238-acre commercial and residential development planned by Vaughan, who is a member of First Baptist Church, California. Some 40 residential lots are being developed. The proposed donated property has 600 feet of highway frontage on the south side of Highway 50 and 425 feet running south parallel to Windmill Ridge Drive. City water, electric, natural gas and sewer are in place. The value of the six acres is estimated at between $500,000 and $600,000.
California Mayor Norris Gerhart told The California Democrat that the MBC’s move to his city is a win-win situation.
“This move will pave the way for many opportunities for our city,” he said. “We, as a city, are very excited about this project and we are happy to have the Missouri Baptist Convention headquartered in our city.”
Shelenhamer said a key ingredient that led to recommending the California site was the completion of Highway 50. It is anticipated that project – to straighten and expand the highway from two-lanes to four between Jefferson City and California – will be completed in late 2008 or early 2009.
“I don’t know that it would have been as appealing without that four-lane highway,” he said. It is 22 miles from Jefferson City to California.
The Relocation Study Committee looked at several options around the state over a four-year period, including two from Jefferson City, before recommending the California site.