By NATHAN GREGORY
In a 4-3 vote, the Starkville Board of Aldermen passed a resolution authorizing a 20-year lease plan to construct a new city hall and courthouse facility and revamp the existing city hall to convert it into a police station.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn were the opposing votes to the bond referendum. Contract signing and schematic design of the three-year project will begin this month.
The measure did not pass without controversy as Perkins called for a “change in leadership” and said passing the resolution would set future boards up for failure.
The city will contract West Brothers Construction over the amount of time it takes to complete the project and finish paying the lease. Once the 20-year lease is up, the city will own the facilities. Estimated costs for construction of a new city hall building are $6.7 million, while renovation of the current facility has a $1.3 million price tag. The current plan is for the new facility to be completed in April 2014 with renovation on the current building to start a month after.
The city and West Brothers are establishing the Starkville Public Buildings Corporation, a non-profit set up to make the lease feasible. Financing for the project will be through the issuance of a series of certificates. In order to facilitate certificate sales, the board would authorize the execution of a purchase contract with the successful bidder of the certificates.
Demery Grubbs of Government Consultants said the city would have an estimated maximum annual payment average of $515,000 with construction of a new city hall and an estimated $88,000 yearly payment for conversion of the current facility to an expanded police facility based on market conditions.
“Looking at your tenured growth, you’re averaging about a 3.4 percent growth in sales tax each year. You’ve been doing that on an average for about 10 years. (When) you look at how to use this growth, right now this would generate annually about $188,000-a-year growth,” Grubbs said. “For purposes of determining how we can pay for this and stay away from increasing taxes … we’re proposing that we use annually for about a three-year period about $150,000 of this sales tax (that) is coming in, which frees up some $38,000 of sales taxes coming in on a annual basis. We’re using a figure of about a 2.75 percent growth in sales tax to give us some flexibility in case the economy moves or changes.”
Grubbs said an extra $198,000 will become available in the budget in 2013 after paying off an old debt, giving the city $348,000 in that year.
“Our payment based on our projection for the first year is about $272,000 … then when we get to 2014 we add another $150,000 to the $348(,000) to give us $498,000 — sufficient funds to make the payment (in that year) which would be about $500,000. We will actually have after year one about a $76,000 surplus, a fund we weren’t anticipating,” Grubbs said.
He said when the city’s total debt service when it begins to pay certificates on both projects simultaneously will be approximately $615,000-$620,000 annually. Sales tax dollars will be phased out of the payment plan after 2015.
Perkins referenced two past failed votes on increasing taxes and using taxpayer funding to furnish a new complex.
“It seems like there’s a growing movement to do whatever you want to do and disregard the voice of the people,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t take a law or engineering degree to understand that when the people speak, the people have spoken.
“The taxpayers did not send me up here with a rubber stamp, and I don’t have one and don’t want one,” Perkins added. “The people not only spoke one time but they came back and spoke a second time. This motion is an attempt to go around the mandate of the people. You can find $6.7 million to build a new city hall, but you wouldn’t at least submit a grant application for the community development block grant (that would have provided funding to fix the ditch on Carver Drive). We want to talk about paying for this $8 million (project) on some anticipated growth. Is that a prudent … way to conduct business? No. Do you think I’m going to go and build a home if I didn’t have one on future income?”
Wiseman spoke in favor of the public-private partnership and breaking ground on new facilities.
“Negotiating this project and finding a way that this works … to me it is a testament to what is possible when government and the private sector meet to fulfill public needs,” Wiseman said. “(And it) does not require a tax increase for issuance of general obligation funds.”
In other business, the board:
u Voted 5-2 in favor of amending the sidewalk ordinance to exempt parcel and business owners in specified areas from being required to build sidewalks;
u Heard multiple citizen comments from Carver Drive residents regarding rejection of the CDBG grant application and asking for improvements to the ditch;
u Held a second public hearing on redistricting plans for the city presented by Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS manager Toby Sanford.