Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

TOP STORY>> Cabot will decide on funding for overpass and center

IN SHORT: Bridge would be built early if millage passes, but center in limbo if measure fails.

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Just as they said they would earlier this month, the Cabot City Council approved an ordinance Monday night to ask voters on July 12 to increase their city property tax by one mill and ap-prove $2 million in bonds to help build the community center and a railroad overpass on Polk Street.

If voters turn down the millage increase, the overpass will still likely be built in 2008, the original construction date set by the Highway Department. But Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh says there is no plan B for building the under-funded community center.

Stumbaugh has looked for grants to help pay for the project and has promised to name the center for any benefactor willing to contribute the $1.2 million or more needed to add to the $3 million the city has set aside, all without success.

That is not the case in Carlisle, however, where state Sen. Bobby Glover has obtained $1 million from the state General Improvement Fund to pay for a community center.

So with no state or private help forthcoming, the council is left with no recourse except to ask city residents to tax themselves to build the 34,000 square-foot community center that has been planned for about two years and to help pay the city’s $1 million match on a $5 million overpass that has been planned for more than five years.

If Cabot voters decide to tax themselves to pay for the new center as well as the overpass, owners of homes costing $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $20 in taxes every year.

The council also voted to seek a general contractor as a project manager for the community center, which could cost about $4.4 million, according to Alderman David Polantz, who sponsored the ordinance calling for requests for qualifications for the job.
Polantz also asked for the millage election ordinance, which was cosponsored by the mayor and all the council members except Alderman Jerry Stephens who made good on his promise to not support any increase in taxes.

Stumbaugh said on Tuesday morning that since the low bid of $4.2 million for the community center was turned in late last fall, the project would have to be re-bid before construction could begin.

The center was expected to cost $3 million.

Since the low bid came in $1.2 million above the amount available to pay for it, the city has been getting advice from the school district on how to save money on construction.

Parks Director Carroll Astin told the council that one way the school saves money is by using a project manager who is paid to find subcontractors to do the work.

Increasing the city millage from 3.5 to 4.5 would bring in about $180,000 a year, said Dale Walker, city finance director, more than enough to pay back 20-yearbonds for $2 million.
Ordinance No. 16 of 2005, submitting the proposed millage increase and bond issue to the voters, sets a July 12 election date.

Voters will be asked to approve bond issues of $700,000 for the railroad overpass and $1.3 million for the community center.

Although it is still not certain whether $4 million in federal money for the overpass will be available this year, Stumbaugh said Monday that he believes it will be made available.