Council puts $2.5 million bond issue on Nov. 2 ballot
By Kim Edward Adams

The Jesup City Council approved placing a bond issue for up to $2.5 million on the November 2 fall election ballot here.

Meeting Sept. 13 in special session, the Council discussed broad concepts for a Community Center project. As reported last week in the Citizen Herald, the council agenda included a $3 million limit on what the council could seek to borrow for this project. After much discussion, the Council approved a $2.5 million bond asking to be voted on at the upcoming election.

The Council’s special session was required to meet timetables to get a measure like this on the ballot in time for the election Nov. 2.

“There are still a lot of moving parts [to this project],” said Council member Todd Rohlfsen, “and everything has to come together for this to be successful.”

What might be included?

The current proposal (drawing below) is to include three major components in a roughly 17,450 square foot building to be constructed on the Youngblut property just north of where Sixth Street intersects with North Street (210th Street). The construction, including parking, would take place between Rosie Youngblut’s home and the Electric Utility’s Transom Station. There would be room north of the Transom Station for future development of another building up to roughly 7,000 square feet.

The building’s components would include a 6,000 square foot childcare facility, with a 4,000 square foot outside play area; a 3,000 square foot retail space; a 6,550 square foot community center multi-purpose room; and a 1900 square foot shared toilet/mechanical area.

The citizens’ vote on GO bonds is the first step toward making this project a reality. Even if a supermajority “yes” vote is achieved on Nov. 2, the project could still falter.

Rohlfsen mentioned three major factors that have to be solidified before the project could move forward:

First, a lease agreement for the daycare and retail areas needs to be finalized.

Second, the management for the daycare has to be in place.

Third, the project needs to come in at a budget that “makes sense and is fiscally right.”

Childcare Facility

The childcare facility is being planned by The Right Place Child Care Center Inc. which has also recently conducted surveys of the community and found an urgent need for more childcare providers in Jesup according to Mayor Even. “If the City is able to work with that group to provide more opportunities for childcare, Jesup residents, businesses, schools, and ultimately the City will all benefit. The interest is definitely there; however, we also need to look at the financials.”

“The estimated cost for a community center is around $3 million,” Even said. “If the City borrowed $3 million for a community center, the City’s average annual bond payment would be approximately $290,000 per year. In the next two years, the City will pay off two bonds, whose bond payments add up to approximately $300,000 per year. The City could borrow $3.0 million for the community center without increasing property taxes, but that amount would not allow much borrowing capacity for other projects over the next twelve years,” Even said.

“Consequently, the City Council decided to ask the citizens for authorization to borrow up to $2.5 million for the project and will seek grants and other funding sources for the remainder needed,” the Mayor said. “At $2.5 million, the City’s average annual bond payment will be about $245,000, which still leaves some borrowing capacity for other projects.”

Retail Space

The 3,000 square foot retail space is part of the current planning due to a request from a local business that wishes to expand into a larger area. Leasing this area, and the daycare area to other entities, would provide income to help the City cover on-going expenses for the entire facility.

Community Center Space

The 6,550 square foot Community Center-Multi-purpose space could provide fitness and wellness space, including a gymnasium. Details of what will be included in these spaces, and exactly how they will be managed, have not been finalized.

Rohlfsen pointed out that the project should not move forward as currently planned (even with a yes vote on the bond issue) unless the retail space and the childcare facility were ready to go and able to provide revenue for on-going expenses of the facility.

Making the combination work
Rohlfsen identifies the daycare facility as a definite need for the community, as well as the availability of retail space in that location. He noted that by piggybacking a wellness center/recreation facility onto the other projects, it can make all three viable.

Read the rest of the story in the Sept. 22 Citizen Herald.
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