Instead of voting to override Mayor Allen Latimer’s veto of a board order to begin the bid process for street repairs in the Holly Grove subdivision, the Horn Lake Board of Aldermen have voted to start the process toward a more than $5 million street bond issue that would address problems throughout the city, streets which they admit have greatly deteriorated over time.
The vote came after a lengthy discussion that included Latimer’s explanation of why he vetoed the order to begin with, followed by City Clerk Jim Robinson explaining how funds in the Municipal Street Fund Account would be used to start the bond process.
Latimer said the Holly Grove work only would use a sizable amount of the street fund account.
“When I issued the veto, it looked like what was proposed and what went through would eat up over 50 percent of the street repair budget,” Latimer said. “My job is not for just one street, but for the whole city.”
Latimer reminded board members the city has been making efforts to provide more funding to repair streets in the community.
The mayor also pointed out the initial decision came without the presence of Public Works Director Spencer Shields, whose department oversees street maintenance. Shields was not at the meeting due to an illness and Latimer said he wanted his director’s input before the board order was agreed to.
But, Latimer’s last point became the most important, noting that city debt payments are about to decrease significantly in the next several years, leaving its financial condition in much better shape.
“Mr. Robinson and I have been in discussion with our financial consultant regarding the possibility of the city borrowing money for road work with the first payment not due until 2022,” Latimer said. “In the discussion this became a possibility. It is my suggestion that this should be decided prior to any commitment regarding road work.”
The mayor said the 2022 date is important because bond payments already being made for street projects will be reduced by about $750,000 in two years.
Robinson then explained the research that went into the proposal to move forward on a bond idea.
“Last year, we put $400,000 in the Municipal Street Fund and we are funding another $400,000, so we have about $800,000 in there,” said Robinson. “Without deferring and not paying any payment for two years, which would elevate and extend our bond, we could use the monies that we have in hand to cover every street in every ward at about $5.3 million.”
Robinson said the bond can be executed this year and the city has two payments already in hand for June 2020, a payment that is under the $400,000 figure. A second payment is available for the following year through a CD, Robinson said.
“You can see that having the cash in hand already, we could execute a bond and have the two payments in the bank,” he said. “It would not affect our budget and we would not have wait until budget time,” adding after the meeting there’s no effect on property taxes.
It was also explained that by taking the action now, contracts for some of the street projects could be awarded later this year, once the bond is finalized. Preliminary work could begin immediately before the physical paving projects could start.
Aldermen, who unanimously agreed to the street bond, have provided their list of priority streets that would be looked at first.
TIM SMITH DAY SET: Briefly after starting the meeting Tuesday, Latimer called for a recess for a reception to honor Ward 3 Alderman Tim Smith, who is leaving the governing body on April 30. Latimer presented Smith a proclamation making that day as “Alderman Tim Smith Day,” a proclamation that noted Smith’s work with the city.
Board members are expected to declare an official vacancy at the first meeting in May and set a special election date, which could be sometime in June.
HORN LAKE ETC.: In other action Tuesday, board members voted to donate $2,800 to the House of Grace after Rev. Warren Pellom and Lorine Cady of the domestic shelter for women and children appealed for the city’s help. Cady said the House of Grace was in desperate need of money for its facility that serves nine counties, including DeSoto County.
Board members also voted to take $2,800 from hotel/motel tax proceeds to cover the sponsorship of Mayor’s Youth Council members Madison Burton and Emily Little, who will attend the DECA International Career Development Conference. The conference is April 26-May 1 in Orlando, Fla. Burton and Little were selected to attend after passing through regional competition and they represent the first Horn Lake High School students to attend the event.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.