Thursday, October 27, 2005

Commons on fast track

Staff Writer

Construction at the Holly Springs Commons is being moved forward at an accelerated pace with several measures approved by the board of aldermen September 18, upon recommendation of Don Hollingsworth with public works.

The board approved an emergency procurement declaration for expenditure of $250,000 to lay water and sewer down the center of the new street at Holly Springs Commons. The measure allows Holly Springs Utility Department (HSUD) to solicit quotes to lay the lines.

The board authorized an application for a block grant in the amount of $500,000 for the planning, legal work and administration of the project. Then the board approved a resolution to allow Lester Franklin Swords to secure a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan to develop 120 acres with the city putting $1.5 million toward infrastructure for Holly Springs Commons through funding it obtains. Part of that money will go to paving the drive to the new medical complex and hospital area in the Commons, according to Hollingsworth. The cost of the paving project is expected to run at $2.5 million, he said.

Hollingsworth said the TIF financing packages will put the development in the Commons area on a fast track.

TIF plans are used to publicly finance needed public improvements and infrastructure and promote viability of existing businesses and attract new commercial enterprises. The costs of improvements and laying of infrastructure are repaid from future tax revenues generated by increase in property values in the investment zone. Only cities can initiate TIF plans.

Hollingsworth said work on the north/south road that will connect West Boundary to the Commons could begin in January.

In other business, the board of aldermen:

• heard a proposal on airport management from Del Stover with the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Bill York with the Airport Authority.

IDA has operated the airport for a number of years and funding has always been hard to get, York said.

Recent improvements have included securing the fencing and repairing the runway. Construction of new runway and taxiway lighting has just begun.

York offered an interim proposal for airport management while the county and city decide if they want to assume the oversight of the authority. The airport property is in 50:50 joint ownership by the two governments.

The county accepted an agreement October 11 to take over management from IDA with or without the city’s participation. Since then the city and county have been negotiating on funding for the maintenance of the facility.

Stover said IDA would continue to manage the airport and seek grants for improvements. The proposal offers the city a five-member representation on the management board. The county named five members in October.

Stover said the airport does not generate enough revenue to cover all expenses and usually looks to the city and county for between $8,000 and $10,000 annually to make up deficits.

The county has offered to maintain the grounds and wants the city to pay the cost of utilities (water and electricity), which runs about $200 a month, and upkeep of the new runway lighting system, Stover said.

Under the interim proposal, IDA would remain administrator of record and use income to pay for matching grants, insurance and other costs, he said.

Aldermen voted to take the proposal under advisement.

Alderman Tim Liddy then asked about future development of the airport.

Stover said Jewel Aircraft Maintenance currently has business at the airport and in the future IDA would envision extending the runway, having a flying school, and more hangers. With more leasing of hangers, fuel sales increase, he said.

• approved Michael Stevens to do inspection of E.L. Rust dormitory restoration.

• designated fire chief Ken Holbrook to apply for recovery of overtime pay from federal and state emergency management agencies for work done to clear tree limbs from streets in the aftermath of Katrina. Holbrook said the recouped funds would replenish expenditures from his budget.

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