By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen will consider a resolution that would involve the construction and lease of new municipal facilities at its meeting today.
The city issued a request for public-private partnership proposals earlier this year for construction of a new city hall and court facility, as well as renovation of the current city hall building to convert it into an expanded police station. The new buildings would be erected at the site where Starkville Electric Department was formerly housed.
A citywide referendum to increase taxes to fund construction of such a facility failed last year when the city didn’t receive the 60-percent ‘yes’ vote necessary to go forward.
The board authorized negotiation with West Brothers Construction in February. The new facilities would have an estimated price tag of $6.7 million, while renovation on the current city hall building would cost $1.3 million. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said in order to pay for the new facilities, the city and West Brothers would establish a non-profit corporation which will lease the facility to the city for a 20-year period. When that time runs up, the city will officially own the facilities.
“The city’s responsibility will be annual lease payments, and those lease payments will be funded through a combination of old debt that has recently been retired and sales tax growth,” Wiseman said. “The important thing to note is not only does it not require a tax increase, but state law does not allow for a tax increase for a building project of this nature. I’m very enthusiastic about how this has come out. It provides us a way for meeting a pressing need and it allows us to do it without raising taxes.”
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the public-private partnership with a lease is the best option available if the city wants to go through with municipal facility construction.
“If there was one thing I heard after the municipal bond failure it was everybody talking about how bad we need something. After several failed attempts at doing it, it’s obvious that a bond issue is not the answer,” Dumas said. “One of the most creative and abundantly obvious choices we have out there is a public-private partnership to go through the process of building municipal facilities that meet our goals and also meet what we expect in quality. I’m not interested in going and doing things as cheaply as we can just to be able to say we have four walls and a floor. We’ve got to be able to build facilities that are representative of our community.”
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the board has to determine whether or not this is a prudent investment.
“The decision the board has to make is if this is a project we think is right for our needs,” Sistrunk said. “Can we afford it? Do we want to go forward?”
The board will also hold public hearings on the city’s redistricting process and on a potential change to the city’s sidewalk ordinance. The board, which voted against amending the ordinance at its last meeting, will have the option to vote on a revised version. If the measure passes, parcel and business owners in areas of the city deemed not to have heavy pedestrian traffic will be exempt from mandatory sidewalk construction.