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February 16, 2013

New Albany council to discuss bond for aquatic center, baseball fields

Note could be worth up to $19.6M

NEW ALBANY — During a work session Tuesday, the New Albany City Council will discuss a bond issue backed by Mayor Jeff Gahan that would foot the construction of an aquatic center, baseball park and soccer fields.

It will give the council the opportunity to discuss the up to $19.6 million bond note for the first time in public. Councilwoman Shirley Baird said much more information is needed on the financial plan for the projects before a vote is held.

The council is slated to vote Thursday to affirm a funding agreement between the New Albany Redevelopment Commission and New Albany Redevelopment Authority that would allow the bond to be paid back with tax-increment financing funds. A vote on the actual bond — which would be backed up with property taxes in case TIF funds weren’t sufficient to cover the payments — hasn’t been scheduled.

Baird said input from the public is warranted before moving ahead with the financing of the recreational facilities.

“I don’t want to just, I feel, arbitrarily have our city bound for almost $20 million worth of bonds,” she said Friday, as Baird added the projects are too big for a quick vote. “I can’t make a decision without a lot more information.”

The baseball facility portion of the plan — estimated to cost between $5 million and $6 million — was questioned this week by New Albany Little League officials. The organization has committed to building a baseball and softball facility off Charlestown Road, and Little League Vice President Justin Endres said it would be an unneeded duplication of services for the city to construct a separate complex.

However Councilman Dan Coffey has stated the city park — which could be located at the former Hoosier Panel property off Silver Street — wouldn’t be a duplicate because it would serve New Albany children. The other park is located outside of city limits, north of Interstate 265.

Coffey said the Little League park would be difficult for all city residents to use since it would be located in the county.

“Our responsibility is to the citizens of New Albany,” Coffey said.

The baseball facility is only one portion of the potential bond. It could also be used to foot an aquatic center and new soccer fields at Binford Park. Sam Peden Community Park has been discussed as a location for the aquatic center, but the administration has confirmed other options are being explored.

Councilman Scott Blair is the sponsor of the resolution that’s set to be voted on Thursday. It would allow the redevelopment authority to pay back the bond issue and lease the facilities to the redevelopment commission. Blair said Friday he’s excited to get the process started, though he added he expects the plan to be scrutinized and reviewed before the bond receives a vote.

“I believe it’s been long overdue,” he said. “We’ve needed these sports facilities and quality-of-life projects in New Albany for a long time now.”

The administration decided to include the projects into one bond note, citing a need to move forward with the projects in order to offer more recreational facilities to residents. Blair said the aquatic center, baseball park and soccer fields could lead to neighborhood revitalization and spark economic development in New Albany. Remaining proceeds from the bond issue could be used for a renovation of the downtown New Albany Farmers Market structure, as specified by the redevelopment commission.

If the bond is brought to the council for a vote, it will require three ballots for passage. The cap amount of the bond would be $19.6 million, with a maximum interest rate of 7 percent.  A financial adviser hired by the administration said Tuesday the 7 percent rate is basically a worst case scenario option, and that the city should have ample TIF revenue to pay off the bond.

Tuesday’s work session will be held at 7 p.m. in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

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