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City is closer to buying 13-acre site

Public safety building will not finish move until 2010

POSTED: July 6, 2008 5:01 a.m.
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This shows where Gainesville officials plan to relocate the city's public safety facility.

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The Gainesville City Council is laying the legal groundwork that moves the city one step closer to relocating its public safety facility.

The council passed two resolutions that will allow the city to purchase about 13 acres for its new public safety buildings with cash from other city funds.

City Manager Bryan Shuler said the resolutions do not mean the city is finished negotiating with the multiple landowners involved in the purchase. Instead, the resolutions set up how the city may pay for the property, allowing the city to pay for it with cash from different funds when negotiations are complete, and later reimburse those funds after the city takes out bonds for the construction of the property.

"We don't need to go out and borrow money today, because we've got cash on hand," Shuler said. "But some of that other money was intended for other purposes."

The city is nearing the end of its negotiations with multiple landowners to purchase approximately 13 acres along Pine Street. The negotiations should be complete - and the contracts ready to present to the City Council for approval - by the end of July.

The pending property purchase, which one of the resolutions states will not exceed $6 million, is not far in the future, but Shuler said he does not expect to have to start spending money on construction until the end of the year.

Without Tuesday's action, the city would have to get two loans - one for the purchase of the land and another for the construction of the police and fire stations on the land - and incur greater costs in debt service payments, Shuler said.

"We don't want to have to pay debt service on a project before we have anything to pay for," Shuler said. "... It's not inexpensive to issue a bond."

The action allows the city to get one loan when it is ready to start construction on the new police and fire buildings that will cover the costs of the land acquisition and construction, and reimburse the funds that paid for the land acquisition with that bond.

"We have to declare our intent to reimburse ourselves for that land purchase through the issuance of bonds," Shuler said. "We may or may not do that, but we want the ability to do that."

"If we were to buy those properties without first passing this resolution, then we would not be able to recover that money."

The city may not pay for the property with bonds, however. Shuler said he hopes some of the costs will appear on a ballot for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The property purchase may be imminent; Heery International is already working on designing the 13-acre site, which runs along Pine Street from Banks Street to High Street.

But the resolution does not mean the city will not be moved out of its current police and fire facilities on Jesse Jewell Parkway any sooner than projected.

When the city agreed to sell its current public safety buildings on Jesse Jewell Parkway, the contract allowed the city until June 2010 to move out.

"We're supposed to be out of there by June 2010, and it will take every bit of that time to get this building built and relocated is my projection," Shuler said.

Council members voted unanimously to approve the two resolutions, which bring the city two steps closer to relocating its police station, municipal court and Fire Station One.

Mayor Myrtle Figueras was the only council member to comment before the council voted.

"I'm excited. All in favor? Five (votes) for."




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