July 26, 2014 10:48:43 PM
At least three Starkville aldermen have not yet committed their support to a bond issuance next month that could fund a new industrial park near the Miss. Highway 182 and Miss. Highway 25 interchange.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker confirmed to The Dispatch via text that they're undecided on the issue and will continue to work through the details as August board meetings approach. Last week, Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins said he has not yet been approached with the Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed topic and would not comment on matters before they hit the board table. A message sent to Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard was not immediately returned.
City representatives are expected to tackle the issue next month, but the board's Aug. 5 agenda will not be released until Friday. Oktibbeha County supervisors will have the first crack at their side of the combined $10 million bond issuance on Aug. 4. The county board is expected to approve the matter.
Both boards renewed economic development contracts with the LINK this month, opening the door for the potential bonds. To address a lack of shovel-ready sites, the LINK unveiled plans to purchase more than 300 acres of land in west Starkville and produce infrastructure improvements needed to lure manufacturing centers.
A new site is needed, officials say, due to low electric capacity at Cornerstone Park, a mostly vacant site located south of the Miss. Highway 25 and Miss. Highway 12 bypass. 4-County Power Association, which services Cornerstone, is unlikely to improve the area's current power supply -- a residential load, primarily -- until 2017, but a commitment to those improvements are not guaranteed.
If Starkville approves all $5 million in bonds, the city could be forced to service the debt with about a 2-mill tax increase.
"We have a research-based university with a lot of those jobs here, but there aren't a lot of jobs above the minimum-wage line. A new park could be a game-changer for Starkville, and I like that aspect; however, if we spend $10 million and the economy turns and nobody comes in, it could be the biggest flop in the world, just like Cornerstone is right now," Carver said. "We have a lot of residents who are on fixed incomes, and (a millage increase) could be passing a tax burden onto someone that cannot afford it."
Mayor Parker Wiseman said site's approval and subsequent job attraction would help expand the city's tax base for the future, as Starkville has seen many new residential and commercial projects come to fruition recently, but industrial attraction has fallen short of the mark.
The general rule of thumb, Wiseman said, is that for every tax dollar generated by residential developments, it costs about $1.25 for city services, including water, sewer and sanitation. Industrial developments provide a much better margin, he said: for every $1 generated, city services cost about $.25 due to infrastructure concentration.
"If you're going to build a sustainable tax base that, over the long haul, is going to provide quality city services on low tax rates, you must have an aggressive industrial development strategy. If you don't, your options are either lower quality of services or higher taxes," Wiseman said.
"This project is critical to the future of our community, and I am 100 percent supportive. There are times every so often when it's important for a community to rally together and do the hard work of making progress. This is one of those times; we cannot miss this opportunity," he added. "It's a reasonable expectation that this site will set the table for hundreds of millions of dollars in new industrial development and hundreds, if not thousands, of new, quality jobs adding to the local economy over the next generation."
Since contracting with the LINK two years ago for economic development enticement, Starkville has seen successes with its limited available space. The LINK secured a deal with C Spire last year to construct a data processing facility on Oktibbeha County Development Authority's last available parcel in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park and helped facilitate a filing products manufacturer's move to property adjacent to George M. Bryan Airport.
The LINK also secured local funding from Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Clay counties to help service debt associated with a significant EMCC workforce development center that will locate near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
Besides historical successes at the Golden Triangle Industrial Park, the LINK last year secured a major commitment from Yokohama Tire Corporation to build a significant production site in Clay County.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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