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The Richmond City Council has a choice to make. The question is not if a bond issue will go to voters but when.
The Council has called a special meeting for Thursday, May 21 at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall to hear from residents. The Council will determine at that time if the issue will go on the August or November ballot. The council said last night that they want the meeting full of residents.
“If you are convinced this is a necessary project you need to ask your constituents what to do,” City Administrator Rick Childers said last night at the city’s Finance Committee meeting that was attended by all eight councilmen.
The council is convinced the project is necessary, but split on whether or not three months is enough time to educate voters.
Councilwoman Terrie Stanley said on Thursday she had at least 15 people tell her they would not support a bond issue.
Waiting until November buys the council more time, however costs the city time with prospects of obtaining grant funding for the project.
Jack Dillingham of Piper Jaffray told the council on Tuesday that waiting until November could cut the chances of receiving stimulus grant money by 50 percent.
Childers recommended waiting until November for a couple of reasons, including the extra strain it would put on the engineers and that he is hearing too many concerns from the council. However, he also said he doesn’t want to miss out on stimulus funds.
“I would love to latch onto some shot of stimulus money,” Childers said. “If we hold off and we miss $1 million by three days because somebody else got a project in I’m going to be [mad]! That’s all there is to it. But I do not want to sacrifice project quality for speed.”
Childers said 20 percent of expenditures by the water and sewer funds go towards bond payments now, however one bond will be paid off by next year.
The council seemed to come to a consensus that a revenue bond as opposed to a general obligation bond would be the route to take. Some councilmen thought it would be unfair to saddle property owners with an additional $90 a year. Instead, residents would see their water and sewer bills increase by about $7 a month. That figure could go down if the city is successful in obtaining a grant. Dillingham said grant funding could reduce bond payments by $100,000 a year.
Childers said the cost of putting the issue on the ballot is about $3,500. The council must pass and ordinance before Tuesday, May 26 to get the issue on the August ballot.