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Gainesville City Council moves ahead with property transfer

Redevelopment authority will gain ownership of public safety site

POSTED: April 7, 2009 11:30 p.m.

The Gainesville City Council moved forward Tuesday with an agreement to sell the downtown parking deck and the site for the future headquarters of the police and fire departments to the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority.

The authority will issue bonds to finance the construction of the facilities.

Council members decided to sell the property to the authority because a technicality with the results of the recent sales tax referendum prevented them from issuing the bonds themselves.

The city plans to use money from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, a 1 percent sales tax to fund capital projects, to pay for the public safety facility and Fire Station No. 1.

But Gainesville’s Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe said that during voting for the SPLOST’s approval, city and county residents were mixed at some polling sites.

Elections officials were unable to differentiate between votes from city and county residents at those locations and could not certify that Gainesville residents approved the tax referendum, although Marlowe said city residents did vote “overwhelmingly” in favor of the tax.

Therefore, the city had to transfer the title of the Public Safety facility property to the authority, which is not a city entity, to issue the bond, Marlowe said.

The issue never came up in previous incarnations of the tax because the city used the tax money on smaller projects that didn’t require taking on debt, Marlowe said.

Still, the city has a way to move forward with the facility, which it broke ground on last month.

The agreement the council approved Tuesday transfers the title of the property to the authority and allows the city to lease it.

The agreement also allows the authority to issue a bond not to exceed $27 million for the facility and one not to exceed $6.85 million for the parking deck.

The city would repay the parking deck bond over a period of 20 years, Marlowe said. However, the city would be able to repay the bond for the public safety facility in four years because of an agreement to receive advance proceeds from SPLOST VI when county officials start collecting it in July.

Once the bonds are paid, the authority would then return the title to the city’s ownership, City Manager Kip Padgett said.



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