June 5, 2009
During a special meeting, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors discussed plans for the county''s upcoming sportsplex project and possible construction of a new Justice Court building.
The board is scheduled to meet with the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority, Columbus City Council and the city-county ad-hoc recreation committee June 10 at 9 a.m. to review environmental and cost-analysis studies of three pieces of land being considered for the county''s sportsplex project.
The properties studied are a 156-acre land tract near the Columbus Riverwalk, a 50-acre piece of land near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit and a 54-acre, partially publicly owned land parcel in the city''s Burns Bottom area, which includes the Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market.
After the June 10 meeting, each entity will review the study findings before choosing a land tract. Once a site is chosen, the county likely will purchase the land and work out a "trade-off" with the city, Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders said.
"The way we''ve done it in the past, the county will buy the land and then enter into some kind of agreement with the city on whatever is built out there," said Sanders. "We could buy the land now, but the actual construction may not even happen for another year or so."
Because the county likely could purchase the land immediately and wait to fund the actual sportsplex construction project, county officials may propose a bond issue in the next few years, Sanders added.
"There are a lot of different ways we could fund this," said Sanders. "We could buy the land now, but whatever we put on it may require a bond issue."
However, Brooks said he believed the county should purchase the land and immediately make plans to fund the construction project.
"I don''t want us to buy the land and then let it sit and not do anything with it," said Brooks. "Then a new board may come in and say they don''t want the land because we didn''t do anything with it.
"I think we should do all of it as a package when we buy it," Brooks added.
During the meeting, board members also explained the county''s need to construct a new Justice Court building to replace the aging facility on Airline Road.
"There is a tremendous need to build a new Justice Court building," Sanders said. "The old one was actually built in the 1970s on top of the old city dump.
"They''ve outgrown that building, and they''ve been using what were supposed to be temporary offices for several years now," Sanders added. "They''ve actually had to lease off-site storage units to store their files."
Because the board previously authorized an environmental study of the former Columbus Municipal School District school bus shop near the Lowndes County Jail, the lot would make an "ideal location" for the new court.
"The people at the sheriff''s office and the Justice Court said the two facilities were designed to be next to each other," Sanders said.
Funding for the Justice Court project could come from a previous bond issue scheduled to be paid off in 2012, Sanders explained.
"If we started today and told the architect to start the project in May 2010, we could sell the bonds for the project sometime in 2011," Sanders said. "The first payments aren''t due until about a year after the bonds are issued, so the first payment on the Justice Court would coincide somewhat with the old jail bond issue coming off."
Supervisors also took action to remedy one of the area''s economic shortfalls.
During the past two years, the Tennessee Valley Authority has failed to pay about $1 million per year in fees-in-lieu to the county while the TVA has leased a General Electric-owned combined cycle plant in Caledonia, according to Sanders.
"Just because TVA is operating that plant doesn''t mean they don''t have to pay that money," Sanders said, noting TVA has leased the plant since April 2007. "I think TVA is looking for ways to save money at our expense.
"We called the state tax commissioner and he said our representatives were aware of it and were going to take care of it," Sanders added. "They say the squeaky wheel gets greased, so I think we need to go down to Jackson and start squeaking."
Following the discussion, the board voted unanimously to authorize Board Attorney Tim Hudson to travel to Jackson and "take whatever action necessary to get that fee-in-lieu money."
Ernest Norsworthy commented at 6/5/2009 8:43:00 PM:
Very interesting comments about the TVA. In my most recent article, I quote some of it.
For more of my writings, mostly about the TVA, see http://norsworthyopinion.com
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