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Debt to be issued for street, sidewalk project

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bridgeport citizens are one step closer to seeing sidewalks downtown and improved streets around town.

Tuesday, the city council authorized the publication of its intent to sell $5.2 million in certificates of obligation to fund the project and associated costs – the first step in the process.

According to a schedule devised by Southwest Securities – the city’s financial adviser – after the notice is published for two consecutive weeks, a special meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29, to issue the bonds, which will be closed and delivered Sept. 26.

“In order for the debt service to actually impact the I&S portion of our tax rate the next fiscal year, the debt has to be on the books prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, which means that we would have to take delivery of the bonds before Sept. 30,” City Administrator Brandon Emmons said.

Work on the multi-year project will begin in the next fiscal year and is slated to be completed in two to three years.

“The idea is to take our existing concrete roads that we have and use that as a basis and work from there, extend out some of the cross streets,” Emmons said.

Streets tentatively identified include 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 17th streets from Cates Street to Mockingbird Lane/Elementary Drive. The project also includes sidewalks along Halsell Street downtown, subdrains in the west side of town and any associated utilities.

“If we can’t fund it all (with bonds), we can look at capital improvement budget over the next few years,” Emmons said.

The intended bond total does not reflect the Bridgeport Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) request to combine efforts with $1.2 million in bond-funded infrastructure improvements at Endeavor Bridgeport business park.

Staff presented information about how the additional debt would affect the city’s debt ratio and bond rating, which deterred the council from combining the projects.

Also, had the bond issues been combined, the city and EDC would be required to enter an interlocal agreement outlining each one’s responsibilities – presumably that the EDC would pledge a portion of its sales tax proceeds to repay the city.

Such an arrangement would mean if sufficient EDC funds were not available, the city would be responsible for the payments.

“I understand the need to develop Endeavor because I believe it will benefit the city,” Councilwoman Kathy Kennedy said. “However it makes me a little apprehensive to extend that [issuance] especially right now. We’re just now beginning to get our feet back underneath us after what we’ve been through, and I think we need to be very cautious.”

The rest of those in attendance agreed, and the motion to issue debt to fund only the street projects passed 3-0.

BRIDGEPORT QUIERE TACO BELL

Council did approve another request by Myers.

The EDC director asked for a $35,000 amendment to his department’s budget to fund a public access drive on a vacant lot between O’Reilly’s and Yesterday’s Texas on the north side of U.S. 380.

With the OK, Taco Bell is one step closer to coming to Bridgeport. Developer John Crisp has been negotiating with the company for months, and one request was a 350-plus linear feet public access concrete drive along the west side of the lot, which will connect two existing public access drives with the highway.

The newly approved drive will make the property “shovel-ready” for Taco Bell and will also service Yesterday’s and other businesses to the east while improving access and development potential for undeveloped tracts to the northwest and northeast.

Crisp will plan, bid and construct the drive, and the EDC will provide a reimbursement not to exceed $35,000.

“I don’t like budget amendments, but I think this is a worthy cause,” Mayor Keith McComis said. “I support it, and I think we’ll get enough sales [to justify it]. I think it will be good for everybody.”

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