City bond plans progress

Engineering work may start as soon as March
Jan. 23, 2014 @ 05:03 AM

City leaders took another step toward establishing an implementation timeline for the city's $14.5 million bond referendum items this week.

Sanford City Council gathered for nearly three hours Tuesday for a retreat to discuss the general obligation bonds — which included $6.5 million for streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro, $4 million for an expansion of the Endor Iron Furnace Greenway, $2 million for the creation and expansion of sidewalks throughout the city and $2 million for a new park with interactive play areas and water elements — and the best way to begin work. The bonds were approved individually by city voters in September.

“We had a [really] productive meeting, and we are trying to get the bonds started,” said Sanford Mayor Chet Mann. “We want to be [really] proactive and show we are moving on this.”

According to a tentative schedule presented during Wednesday's retreat, engineering work for all four of the bond projects could begin as early as March, with the city entering its first bond issuance in 2015.

“I don't want to say they've decided, but the more popular opinion appears to be for us to have two bond issues,” said City Manager Hal Hegwer. “Have one where we borrow $8.5 million in 2015, and come behind with the rest in 2017.”

The bond items that could possibly be completed first include the installation of sidewalks and the streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro, with some construction possibly beginning as early as April 2015. The second project includes the expansion of the greenway and constructing the park, according to the presentation.

“It was extremely positive,” Mann said. “We want to get this started in the right way because it will be a game changer in the community.”

If formally approved by the council members, the city would front nearly $1.2 million for the engineering plans from the city’s fund balance and be reimbursed when the city enters its first bond issuance, potentially in 2015, Hegwer said.

When issuing the bonds, council will consider the possible tax burden, the bond ratings, interest rates, issuance cost, scheduling of the projects and public expectations, he said. If all the projects began at the same time, the potential tax burden would be an additional 5.2 cents to the tax rate.

Sanford City Council will meet next in a retreat from 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Sanford Municipal Center, located at 224 E. Weatherspoon St.