EDITORIAL: Improvements from bonds will be worth waiting for

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

We tend to be people who get incredibly frustrated when we’re the first car caught on the red-light side of a two-minute stoplight cycle at an intersection, or when a morning drive-through line at our favorite fast food joint doesn't yield our biscuit and coffee in that same span of time.

But it's a good time to keep in mind the “go slow to go fast” adage when we're practicing our patience during a time of change. We'd like to get through that light safely, and get the exact biscuit we ordered. Getting it right the first time avoids the need for the do-over.

It seems like a good deal of time has passed since voters in the city of Sanford, in September's primary election, approved four bond referendums, but we all know: this process can be drawn out. The bonds were designed to provide the financing for $14.5 million worth of streetscape improvements and other elements to provide expansion and other visual facelifts in downtown Sanford and Jonesboro, changes most of us are quite anxious to see.

Now, no one expected the projects to be completed just four months after the bonds were approved. And by the same token, even though the projects tied to the bonds have been discussed for years, no one expects city officials to rush through executing the projects or to start “turning dirt” simply to show that something’s being done.

So it’s good to see the city council going slowly to go fast — taking its time to time the projects properly and to borrow the funds for them in a way that works best and most efficiently for the city and for the residents footing the bill for them. The council discussed just that during a retreat this week, a meeting termed “productive” by city officials.

The way things stand now, engineering work for the bond projects will likely begin this spring, with the cost for that work provided by the city's existing fund balance. Bond issuance will occur later in 2015; City Manager Hal Hegwer anticipates the borrowing of $8.5 million next year to start the work, with the remainder of the financing to be started in 2017.

From a priority standpoint, the streetscape improvements and sidewalk installation in Sanford and Jonesboro will lead things off (with construction projected to start in April of next year); the expansion of the greenway and a new park with interactive play areas and water elements will follow.

In the meantime, the city has indicated it will also make a priority of keeping an eye on the potential tax burden of the projects, currently pegged at 5.2 cents to the city's ad valorem rate.

As with home and school construction and other time-consuming projects that can seem to take forever, these four things will be completed before you know it. And, we trust, completed in the right way.