City commits funds to new library

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Troy City Council pledged nearly $4 million for the building of a new public library on Tuesday, moving the project from a wish-list to a reality for volunteers.

“We’ve raised some money, but we couldn’t do any more until it was official,” said Evelyn Watson, president of the Troy Public Library board of directors. “We had to know it was going to happen. Now, we do.”

The funding comes through the reorganization and reauthorization of the 2003 general obligation bonds issued by the city. The council voted to add $5 million to the existing $8.274 million in bonds and to extend the terms of the bonds to 25 years, essentially restructuring the debt, to finance the library project along with several others.

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“I want everyone to understand this will keep the debt repayment the same, at least for the next several years,” said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. “But it does extend the debt for 25 years.”

Lunsford, who proposed the restructuring of the bond debt, outlined strict requirements for the project, including several specifics related to the library project. Those included that:

• The library be built on the old Elm Street school site.

• The library be built based on the budget submitted by the architects. That budget, which is $3,999,902, does not include furnishings or the outdoor amphitheater, which would be constructed from the bricks salvaged from the old school, Lunsford said. “However, if the bid comes in $600,000 over budget, I want you to send it back until it comes back at budget,” he emphasized during the council’s work sessions.

• The library board commit to raising the funds for furnishing the facility.

The bond refinancing also includes:

• Funding for the construction of a new public works facility. The facility, which would be located at the site of the old recycling center, would be constructed using the $500,000 earmarked from the sale of the Army Reserve Center on the Elba Highway to the Troy City Schools along with a portion of the bond funds, Lunsford said.

• A $250,000 allocation of matching funds for the construction of a new Senior Nutrition Center. The city has applied for a Community Enhancement CDBG grant to fund the project and, if the grant is received, would need the matching funds to complete the project.

• Funding of the purchase of the “old Liberty National Building.”

The total cost of the bonds issue will be $13.685 million.

William White, library director, said plan for the library will double existing space to nearly 24,000 square feet and provide room for growth for the next 18 to 20 years. “I’m not exactly sure how much it’s going to cost (to furnish it) but we’ll meet those costs,” he said. “I am determined to exceed people’s expectations.”

In other business, the city council:

• Adopted the fiscal year 2011 budget. The budget includes revenues of $20,290,654.96 in the general fund and $31,963,704 in the utility department, for a total city budget of slightly more than $52.254 million.

“This reflects the sales tax that actually goes to the hospital because it flows through our budget,” the mayor said. “That number is a little bit over $2.5 million, and I expect it to stay on our budget through next year.”

Lunsford also said the budget does not include any cost of living raises for employees. It does, however, include the 2.5 percent annual merit, or step, raises for all hourly employees, which are awarded on their anniversary dates. “And I would expect that we would grant the same consideration to salaried employees, effective Oct. 1,” he said.

Lunsford said in order to balance the budget as written, “and I’ve projected the revenues conservatively,” the city will have to draw approximately $600,000 from surplus over the course of the fiscal year. “We are very hopeful that sales tax will continue to change and we won’t have to pull a dime out of surplus, but with the understanding that if I’m accurate and things don’t change, we will have to pull $600,000 out of surplus to balance the budget,” he said.

“But we’re lucky to have that,” he added. “Many other cities are in the position of eliminating personnel and employees.”

• Awarded the bid for a new crime scene van to Ken Cox Ford. The bid was $19,318.

• Approved the removal of a building at 106 Martin Luther King Drive, which was declared dilapidated. The property is owned by John O. London.

• Appointed John Henderson to a permanent member of the Board of Adjustments, and Al Jones as a supernumerary member, to replace E.M. “Boy” Motes Jr., who resigned. “Mr. Motes has been a longtime and faithful member of that board, and we appreciate his service,” said Johnny Witherington, council member.

• Decided to take no action on Halloween activities. “I’ve had a couple of requests about whether the city of Troy is going to designate a time for Halloween,” Lunsford said. “We don’t. Halloween falls on the 31st and I would not anticipate we would make any formal changes to that.”