After approving a $4.5 million bond to finance the work and awarding a $2.88 million construction contract Tuesday, Statesboro officials are planning for groundbreaking ceremonies as soon as March 16 for transformations of two parks.
The renovation projects at Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and the Rev. W.D. Kent Park on Grady Street will make them essentially new parks, Mayor Jonathan McCollar said after Tuesday morning’s meetings.
“This is the culmination of three years of work, planning what the park system for inside of the city’s main corridor is going to look like,” McCollar said. “This is a tremendous effort supported by a great deal of people throughout the community, but it also shows the work of an amazing staff working to serve the people of Statesboro. So we’re really excited about it, and it’s going to be great to have new parks inside of the city again.”
During a recess early in the regular City Council session, he served as chair of Statesboro’s Urban Redevelopment Agency, or URA, which held its own meeting to formally approve issuing the bond.
Truist Bank bond
The URA board unanimously voted to issue a $4.5 million, 10-year-bond to Truist Bank at a 1.47% annual interest rate. In other words, the city, through the URA, is borrowing that amount and gets a reduced rate by issuing a revenue-backed bond that is tax-free to the bank.
A summary from Davenport & Company, the city’s financial advisor, showed that Truist requested the lowest rate of the 10 banks that submitted proposals. Truist, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the company formed by the 2019 merger of BB&T and Sun Trust. The other proposals carried interest ranging from 1.51% to 2.4%.
Even with Truist Bank, higher rates of 1.57% or 1.85% would result if the city exceeds $10 million in new debt this year or the URA bond loses its tax-free status. But that could only happen if the city borrows another $5.5 million or spends the money on something other than the park projects, Doug Gebhardt, Davenport & Company’s public finance vice president, said Tuesday.
More SPLOST needed
So far, the city has committed $1.1 million over five years from its Special Purpose Local Optional Sales Tax revenue, and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners has committed another $1 million from SPLOST to these park projects.
So the city’s repaying more than $2.2 million in bond principal and interest would require voter approval of another multiyear SPLOST extension. Otherwise, the city will be on the hook to repay the remainder from other sources, Gebhardt and City Attorney Cain Smith noted.
City officials created the Urban Redevelopment Agency in January so that it could issue this type of bond, which the city government could not issue directly.
The URA board consists of the mayor as its chair, all five City Council members and five other citizens: Victor Dickey, Mary Foreman, Maurice Hill, Elizabeth Johnson and Ronald Love. All except Love participated Tuesday, with several members attending via Zoom.
As URA members, District 2 City Councilwoman Paulette Chavers made the motion for the bond approval, and District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum seconded.
Both parks are in Chavers’ district.
“These parks have needed to be renovated well over 20 years, and I’m just elated that we are able to get the ball rolling,” she said last week. “Having that social infrastructure there is just going to create a different atmosphere for the community and bring a little more unity in the community.”
A teaching and “therapeutic” swimming pool and a splash pad with a bath house will be central to the renovated Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, but planned features also include family pavilions with grills, a volleyball court and a new playground. A covered basketball pavilion with three courts is planned as a centerpiece of the Rev. W.D. Kent Park on Grady Street, which will also get picnic facilities, a playground, a walking trail and renovated restrooms.
City Council unanimously approved awarding the main construction contract for the park improvements to John E. Lavender & Associates, a Statesboro-based firm, on its bid of $2,877,954.
Another local company, Dabbs-Williams General Contractors, submitted the only other bid. But it was disqualified for not including Minority and Female Business Enterprise affidavits required in the bid request, Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles stated in a memo.
Lavender & Associates submitted the required documents, indicating 26.5% participation in the project by minority- and female-controlled subcontractors.
But Lavender had the lower bid anyway, since Dabbs-Williams bid $2,987,175, City Manager Charles Penny said last week.
Beyond Lavender’s contract price, the city is building a 20% contingency, or about $600,000, into the budget for completing the project.
The council also unanimously approved a new contract, not to exceed $33,560, for Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, which designed the park renovations, to administer the construction.
Not all spent yet
All of these elements, including the contingency, add up to about $3.5 million. But bids for playground equipment will be presented separately March 16, and other work will probably be needed, Penny said.
Among other things, the city staff is working with a local provider to bring broadband service and Wi-Fi to these parks, which he said have none now.
Issuing the bond also carries estimated costs of $80,000.
During the meeting, Boyum asked Penny what he thinks the projects’ total cost will be. In short, he thinks that almost all of the net bond proceeds of about $4.42 million will be spent on the parks, and if any is left over, it will be returned to pay down the debt, Penny said.
“In a hundred years those parks are still going to be there in some form or fashion, and my point is I don’t want to cut corners,” Boyum said. “Let’s make sure that we’re buying the equipment and we’re putting in the technology, that kind of thing. There’s no sense going cheap when this is going to be a long-term project that’s going to outlive every single one of us.”
John Pannell, an attorney with the bond counsel firm Gray, Pannell & Woodward, noted that the bond validation hearing is slated for Monday in Superior Court. The bond closing should then be held Thursday, after which the city will receive the money, he said.
Penny said the ceremonies would be planned with the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department for both parks March 16, possibly beginning at 3 p.m. before City Council meets at 5:30 p.m.