Jul 16, 2015
~~District to pursue Vidalia development
A second proposal will be filed with the State Bond Commission for a multi-use development in Vidalia following action Tuesday night at the town council’s regular meeting.
Mayor Hyram Copeland said Wednesday that paperwork would be filed soon in order to get the town’s request to borrow $7 million for the development on the Bond Commission’s August agenda
At Tuesday’s meeting, the town and the Carter Street No. 1 Economic Development District entered into a cooperative agreement outlining how to govern and operate projects within the district.
Town aldermen serve as the governing body for the district and passed a resolution through the economic district to proceed with the bond application.
The measure passed on a 4-1 vote with alderman Jon Betts opposing the resolution.
The district, rather than the town, is now seeking State Bond Commission approval to borrow $7 million to purchase 65 acres of property along U.S. 65/425 on the west side of Vidalia across from Wal-Mart for a mixed-use development and to finance infrastructure development of the land.
Concordia Economic Development Director Heather Malone said this morning that based “on advice provided by our bond counsel and other legal counsel, we decided to proceed with the Square on Carter project through the Carter Street #1 Economic Development District. This decision was based on models used by other municipalities throughout the state.
“While we are still comfortable that the original application from the town is feasible, as it has been done by other public bodies within the state, this model may actually give the town more flexibility for other growth opportunities moving forward.”
State Treasurer John Kennedy, who chairs the State Bond Commission, released a confidential legal memo from the Attorney General in June stating “a legal impediment does exist” preventing the Town of Vidalia as a municipality pursuing the project because it “does not appear to be” for a “public purpose.”
While the AG’s office did not intend for the confidential memo to be released publicly, AG spokesman Aaron Sadler noted the memo did not represent an opinion.
Kennedy said Tuesday the AG planned to issue a formal opinion with the same message expressed in the memo.
But Sadler said no AG opinion is forthcoming.
“Our office has not received an opinion request on this issue,” he said.
He said if Vidalia filed a new proposal through its economic district that as with any application to the Bond Commission “our office will work with Bond Commission staff to determine whether there are any legal impediments.”
The town’s bonding attorney Jason Akers told the town council Tuesday the economic districts proposal is no different from several developments in the state in Sulphur, Slidell, Denham Springs and Gonzales.
He said the district would set up a 20-year repayment schedule on the $7 million project at an interest rate no higher than 7 percent.
But he noted that as the property was developed that the sale of land and collection of taxes would be used to repay the loan.
“We hope to pay it off much earlier,” Copeland said, “which we’ve done in the past with bond issues.”
Meanwhile, at a special meeting of the town council on July 9, the board adopted a $42 million 2015-16 budget.
The town’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The budget includes expenses of $38.4 million, and an estimated surplus of $3.4 million.
The board also adopted a revised 2014-15 budget that showed revenues of $37.9 million, expenses of $35.7 million and an increase in fund balance of $2.2 million.
Appointments for the 2015-16 fiscal years as announced by Copeland were as follows:
City attorney, Scott McLemore; city accountant, Ashley Anderson; city clerk and tax collector, Vicki Byrnes; assistant city clerk, Fay Garretson; legal journal, Concordia Sentinel; mayor pro tem, Vernon Stevens.
City department heads and aldermen appointed included:
Utility, Mark Morace and alderman Jon Betts.
Street, Lee Staggs and Alderman Tron McCoy.
Fire, Chief Johnny Evans and alderman Vernon Stevens.
Police, Chief Arthur Lewis and Alderman Ricky Knapp.
Office, Fay Garretson and alderwoman Maureen Saunders.