Bond issue gets tentative city backing

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Brookhaven officials Tuesday expressed support for developing anew industrial park, but some also cautioned that bond issuefinancing plans should not interfere with other pending projects,such as a new city hall or annexation.

Chandler Russ, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerceexecutive vice-president, and Phillip Grady, Industrial DevelopmentFoundation chairman, spoke to the mayor and board of aldermen aboutthe proposed $4.7 million park project.

The city and county are each being asked to pursue approximately$2 million bond issues to purchase land and develop the new parkwest of the city. The bond issue funds will be put withapproximately $500,000 in private money raised through the VisionPartnership campaign.

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Russ told officials last night that there are only seven acresavailable for development in the existing park. Without a new park,Russ said Brookhaven and Lincoln County are “on the sidelines” inthe economic development game.

“It’s something that is vital. It’s something that is of theutmost concern,” Russ said. “It’s an opportunity to provide forjobs and investment for the next 30-40 years.”

Engineer Carl Ray Furr, whose firm did the study thatrecommended the site, said the new park was a “golden opportunity”for the city and county to work together. He also mentioned plansto aggressively pursue grants and federal funds to assist with parkinfrastructure.

“We’ll seek federal dollars to lessen the costs to us in thelong run,” Furr said.

The key, however, will be cooperation between the city andcounty, Furr said. He said the state’s congressional delegation ismore responsive when there’s evidence of cooperation.

“They like it when everybody is on the same page,” Furrsaid.

Mayor Bill Godbold twice questioned if park plans would impactother city projects. He mentioned a new city hall and themulti-modal transportation facility.

“I want to make that clear,” Godbold said.

Furr said the park bond issue plans would not impact thoseplans.

Architect Michael Barranco, who was on last night’s agenda todiscuss new city hall plans, was unable to attend due to a familyemergency, Godbold said.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner also mentioned annexation andwhether bonds would be needed for that. Officials last night didnot discuss bond issue specifics, but indicated they wanted to setup a meeting with bond issue attorney Randy Wall and annexationconsultants to discuss the city’s overall situation.

Other city officials voiced support for the park.

“This is a very necessary project if we expect our town togrow,” said Ward 6 Alderman John E. “Buddy” Allen.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill said he considered a newindustrial park and annexation as the top two priorities for thecity.

Massengill, former owner of Southern Wholesale Company, which isnow McLane Southern, praised previous officials’ foresight indeveloping the current park. The company was previously locateddowntown and was able to move to the park instead of Jackson orMcComb.

“That’s where McLane Southern would be today,” Massengillsaid.

Aldermen did not act on the park proposal Tuesday night. Russasked the board to consider action “at the appropriate time” afterspeaking with bond counsel.

Regarding other city projects, Furr said a six-figure appraisalon city property for the proposed multi-modal transportationfacility will mean the city will not have to put up any money tomatch $4 million in federal money allocated for the project. Furrdid not state the assigned property value.

“It’ll take care of our Phase One match. That’s what we werelooking for,” Furr said.

Godbold also said the value of city labor for property cleanupcould also be applied toward the match.

Also Tuesday, Furr informed aldermen that the Federal AviationAdministration had approved an estimated $400,000 project to pavethe runway at the Brookhaven airport. He said the project should bedone in the summer.

In street paving activity, Furr said he and Traffic SupervisorJimmy Furlow would recommend not using any federal funds fortraffic control at West Cherokee Street intersections.

The four downtown intersections currently have traffic signalsbut only one, at Jackson Street, qualifies for funding to replacethem. Traffic levels warrant only four-way stops at the other threeintersections.

“We’ll be using all our federal money for overlay,” said Furr,adding that should allow additional paving.

Officials are considering an estimated $410,000 project to pavesome downtown streets and put striping along Industrial Park Road.The federal funds require a 20 percent local match, and the cityhas budgeted $300,000 for that and other paving activity.

Aldermen approved two easement agreements with Easthaven BaptistChurch to allow the city to use the land to establish a new waterwell and water line.

Under the agreement, said City Attorney Joe Fernald, the churchwill pay for materials to install a new line to the church andreceive water service at no charge. The city will provide the laborto install the line and will receive the easement at no cost,Fernald said.