Tuesday, October 7, 2008

City's Hickory Ridge Plans Delayed Again

A joint City Council public works and CIP budget committee decided today to postpone taking action on the proposed Hickory Ridge Mall sale.

The city administration wants to buy the concourse of the Hickory Ridge Mall — damaged in a tornado last February — for the new fire and police dispatch center. The facility could also house other municipal services and community groups, as well as pre-tornado mall vendors.

The purchase price would be $1.25 million, and the administration is asking for an additional $4.23 million this year for engineering and architecture.

Like two weeks ago, the committee was still troubled that it didn't know the true, total price of the project. City CAO Keith McGee estimates it somewhere between $60 million and $64 million in all.

Council members Reid Hedgepeth and Shea Flinn were also concerned about the city renting space out to mall vendors. Before the tornado, the mall had 33 vendors — 13 of those have expressed an interest in returning. The mall's Sears store is still open.

"It's certainly not a good time to be getting into retail," Flinn said. "I have reservations about the government competing with private developers in this market. That is a cause for great concern."

Councilman Jim Strickland also wanted to know why the city did not partner with the 911 board and tap into $18 million in phone fees the board has earmarked for a dispatch building.

"That money can only be used to construct a building and, obviously, the $18 million would increase as we keep paying those charges," he said. "The 911 board said, lets put the dispatch offices together. The county was going to give up some land out by the penal farm and they were going to construct this building for $35 to $40 million. The 911 board cannot issue bonds themselves."

But after the county balked at issuing more bonds, the city pulled out of the partnership, as well.

"My thought is, that's not the smartest use of money. There's $18 million sitting there," Strickland said. "Instead of issuing bonds for the difference between $40 million and $18 million and use this revenue stream, we're going to issue bonds for $60 million and have to pay for it out of our own pocket."

"I must be missing something," he said.

The committee is expected to review the proposal at its next meeting.


autoegocrat said...

I wish I had found this blog a lot earlier. You've been rocking out since April, but I never knew this blog existed until the Flyer linked it from the main page. This is good stuff.

marycash said...

Well, you're here now ... and feel free to tell your friends.

(And if you could mention that last little part to my boss, that would be rad.)

autoegocrat said...

Next time I talk to him, I will.