The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Town council mulling $1.4 million price tag|
Friday, August 7, 2009
By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer
Rocky Mount's local share of the long-delayed uptown revitalization project could be more than $1.4 million, which could force town council to make hard financial decisions in tough economic times.
The low bid on the uptown project was $1,990,917.
The bid covers the replacement of water and sewer lines; replacing sidewalks and street surfaces; adding street trees, street benches, historic street signs and more crosswalks; new landscaping and other features.
The town has $631,550 in federal and state grants for the project, but that leaves a shortfall of $1,359,367.
In addition, the town could also face an additional cost of $200,000 for putting utilities underground.
Town Manager James Ervin said Tuesday that the town's portion for all elements in the project could be $1.4 million to $1.6 million.
Ervin said the town has several options: scrap the uptown project; redesign the project to lower the cost; borrow the money to pay the local share; or use part of the town's reserve funds (more than $8 million) to pay the local share.
At a meeting of town council's Finance and Human Services Committee, Ervin and several town council members said Tuesday they think the town should proceed with the project, but the unresolved issue is how to finance the town's local share.
"I personally think (the project) is something that should be done. The economy has thrown a wrench into it," Ervin said.
"If we can pull off the financing, I think we ought to go ahead with the project before we lose the grant money," Councilman Roger Seale said.
"I'd hate to see us back out of this now," said Councilman Robert Strickler, chairman of the Finance and Human Services Committee.
Councilman Greg Walker said he thought the town had more federal and state grant money for the project. Ervin said part of the money has been spent for housing rehabilitation on Warren Street, which was part of the project.
Trying to redesign the project and scaling it back at this late date could cause the town to lose the federal and state grant money, Ervin said.
The town is already in danger of losing the federal and state grants, which were approved five years ago, said Matt Hankins, assistant town manager.
"We are running out of time on the grants," Hankins said.
Redesigning and scaling back the project could take a year, he said.
Since planning for the project began five years ago, the town has undergone a change in the top management, including town manager, assistant town manager and community development director.
Ervin and Finance Director Linda Woody have developed several possible options for financing the town's local share of the uptown project, ranging from borrowing the funds to issuing bonds.
Woody and Ervin said they would rather borrow the money rather than tap into the town's reserve funds or issue bonds.
A loan program by the Virginia Municipal League would allow the town to borrow the funds at a 1.76 percent interest rate for short-term financing. This could later be converted to a long-term bond.
"This is a bad time to look at these kind of figures," Councilman Jerry Greer said.
Town council members agreed Tuesday to ask Ervin and Woody to provide more details on the financing options before any decision is made on the project.
The Finance and Human Services Committee will schedule another meeting to consider the financing issues.
The bids on the project will remain good until September, Hankins said.
Downtown Rocky Mount went through a similar process several years ago with a revitalization project.
Town officials said they are hoping the uptown project will do for uptown what the revitalization project did for downtown.
The uptown project will allow freer pedestrian access, better parking and more business traffic.
The uptown revitalization project extends from West Church Street to Floyd Avenue. It includes Main, West Court, Bank and Warren streets.
The consultants on the uptown project are Earth Environmental, Harvey Design Land Architects, Cornerstone Surveying and LMW Engineering.