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Public hearing Monday for Blackjack TIF package

 

Carl Smith

 

Oktibbeha County supervisors will hold a public hearing on a $4.78 million-maximum tax increment financing (TIF) plan 9 a.m. Monday at the courthouse that could fund significant Blackjack Road and infrastructure upgrades. 

 

The board will hold the hearing immediately after the meeting opens with prayer and could pass the item before the day's public comment section, according to the Monday agenda. 

 

If approved, the county could utilize up to $4.78 million in bonds to defray the costs associated with Blackjack Road improvements, from road surfacing, widening and overlay efforts, and general infrastructure items, like water, sewer and electricity. 

 

The established TIF financing district will encompass 11 parcels, including three significant student housing developments that, combined, should add 721 to the area. The combined private investment is estimated at about $102 million. 

 

The area now provides almost $7,000 in county and school ad valorem taxes. If all three projects come to fruition as expected, the county will receive almost $593,000 in additional revenues, while the school system is projected to experience an almost-$718,000 bump. 

 

Since the county intends to use TIF bonds for public improvements, there is no need to reimburse developers of the three multi-family projects. 

 

The county is expected to spread bond payments across 15 years, with about a 4.5 percent interest rate. Principal and interest payments are projected to cost the county less than $500,000 per year.  

 

Supervisors could extend payments to 20 years if needed. 

 

If the TIF is approved Monday, supervisors will determine at a later date how much indebtedness to issue and when. Bond issuance is still in limbo as the county waits to see if the three housing projects materialize, said both District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and Chris Gouras, a consultant who helped the county prepare the TIF plan. 

 

Aspen Heights already broke ground on its project, and Trainer said two other companies are believed to have acquired Blackjack-area property for their respective developments. Aspen Heights is slated to open this year, while the others are predicted to be move-in ready for Mississippi State University's fall 2015 semester. 

 

The county will also wait for the tax assessor's office to determine each parcel's true value after the projects are completed, Gouras said.  

 

As for repairs and upgrades, the county is expected to focus on the area from the roundabout to Bardwell Road, but Trainer said all residents along Blackjack Road will feel the project's impact. Other already-approved Blackjack Road improvements are expected to coincide with the TIF project, and the board president said the new funding stream will give the county more flexibility to tend to its infrastructure. 

 

"The only thing that could stop us from moving forward is if one of these projects fails to materialize, so it would be premature to commit ourselves to the project before we know their final outcomes," Trainer said. "With that said, I'm extremely hopeful about the project and excited about what it can do for those residents - the entire county, really. Everyone that comes through there will benefit from this project." 

 

Count residents repeatedly called into question Blackjack Road's safety and overall health during public comment portions of board meetings this year. In May, about 20 residents said they are forced to endure dangerous conditions as heavy construction equipment associated with housing developments block or damage the thoroughfare.  

 

Supervisors indicated in June a willingness to pass new laws limiting hauling weights, but a resolution was not presented at the table last month. Although the board stopped short of taking formal action, supervisors said the county should at least ask developers for proposed hauling routes in the future. 

 

In May, the county spent about $13,000 on small patching projects associated with the road. Supervisors worry continued developments could force further expenditures. 

 

A long-term solution could prove to be complicated as developers need access to construction sites, thereby ensuring property values funding the TIF proposal increase. 

 

Also in May, County Road Manager Victor Collins said his crews would install "No parking" and "No unloading" signs along Blackjack Road so deputies can enforce the rules and hopefully alleviate potentially unsafe driving conditions.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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