July 16, 2014 10:28:49 AM
Starkville aldermen approved a non-binding letter of intent Tuesday to begin purchase negotiations with Cadence Bank for its $2.55 million Jackson Street location.
The agreement allows the two entities to formally begin talks for the almost 39,000 square foot facility, which would be later renovated for Starkville Police Department's new headquarters. The city will have at least 120 days to solidify an arrangement, but both entities are not bound to strike a deal.
To fund the purchase, Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams said Starkville can utilize $1.27 million in certificates of participation previously earmarked for renovations to the current City Hall and sell lagoon property north of the city for an estimated $400,000-$600,000. Starkville could also procure another $780,000 from other assets like the current City Hall.
The city would acquire the building, the property it sits upon and furnishings, then renovate the facility for police use, Adams said, for about $250,000-$350,000.
Renovations could be paid for utilizing other asset transactions or borrowing, Adams said, but Mayor Parker Wiseman said the entire transaction and reprogramming process should be tax neutral and not require a millage increase.
Aldermen unanimously approved the letter of intent Tuesday, and many city leaders expressed support for the project that would alleviate a decades-long municipal issue.
The previous administration attempted a bond resolution to construct a new police department at the intersection of Jackson Street and Miss. Highway 182. The tax increase failed, but the prior board approved a public-private partnership to construct a new municipal headquarters at the former Starkville Electric Department and renovate its current home with funding from certificates of participation.
During Tuesday's public hearing, Adams addressed numerous public concerns, including the perceived loss of tax revenue that would occur when local government took over a prime piece of Main Street real estate. Cadence Bank will build a new branch headquarters on property it owns on Russell Street, he said, alleviating any ad valorem losses incurred by the city's potential purchase. Additionally, a sale or lease of the city's current operating center would add the public property back to the rolls, thereby adding revenue to the city's coffers.
SPD Chief Frank Nichols also tempered safety concerns associated with the Cadence Bank location, saying the department would limit its Main Street access point to an entrance-only, one-way street. Residents previously questioned the property's Jackson Street egress, but Nichols said a mirror located across the street provides more visibility than an almost-blind turn officers are forced to take when exiting SPD's parking lot onto Washington Street.
Wiseman, who helped develop the city's plan to renovate City Hall for police use, said the potential Cadence deal provides an even better opportunity for Starkville than what is currently on the books. The $1.27 million earmarked for City Hall renovations was never projected to fully address all police concerns for the current facility, Adams said earlier in his presentation.
"(The previous renovation plans were) going to be a project that we could afford after three failed attempts to do a project. It was the best we could do to provide fully functional police facilities to our officers," Wiseman said. "If we were to purchase (Cadence Bank), without a doubt on the first day the keys were turned over to the city, the facility would serve better as a police station than (the current City Hall) after $1.27 million in renovations. We owe it to ourselves to do our due diligence to see if we can meet the financial mandate with this group. If we can do it, there's not a question that it's a better deal for the city than our current course, and I say that as a person who put the current course before the board."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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