A lack of interest in surplus Starkville property could throw a wrench in the city’s financial shell game associated with purchasing Cadence Bank’s Main Street property.
Aldermen pushing the proposed transaction previously touted how the city could avoid dipping into revenue streams by selling lagoon space in northeastern Starkville and its current administrative home.
Those hopes could be dashed after Starkville only received one bid for the lagoon. Although technically it isn’t a proposal, a Columbus-based architectural firm also requested more time to produce a proposal for City Hall.
Developer Lynn Spruill, who previously served as Starkville’s chief administrative officer, confirmed she submitted a $300,000 offer — the sole bid received in the process — for the lagoon property. Requests to reduce city control with the property’s main access points were included in that offer, Spruill said.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said Pryor & Morrow Architects and Engineers showed interest in developing City Hall into a mixed-use parcel complete with retail stores and either apartments or condominiums.
Details of that plan were not immediately available before press time.
Aldermen were scheduled to acknowledge the bids and discuss steps needed to market surplus properties Tuesday but tabled most of their entire agenda as two aldermen, CAO/Finance Director Taylor Adams and a bond attorney were absent from the meeting.
The only action taken during the meeting was Starkville School District Board of Trustees President Lee Brand’s unanimous reappointment to the school board.
Selling the two surplus properties is crucial to keeping the bank’s potential purchase revenue neutral. Starkville asked for proposals after City Hall appraised for $800,000-$900,000 and the lagoon was listed at an estimated $420,000-$600,000.
Officials previously said they would use the $1.3 million in certificates of participation left over from the prior administration’s City Hall construction project to pay for a portion of the purchase, but the board previously expanded the once-shunned financing package to a $3 million maximum.
The expansion could help cover the transaction and its associated renovations or remain for its intended use: to renovate the city’s current administrative home.
Board members have entered into an agreement to spend up to $2.55 million, if approved, to purchase the Cadence property for Starkville Police Department’s future home.
Unlike general obligation bonds, COPs do not directly authorize tax increases for debt retirement. Those payments much come out of the city’s budget.
Officials are now turning their attention to an expected architectural report that will spell out the total renovation costs needed to prepare City Hall for a full SPD takeover.
Wiseman said the architect’s work should conclude soon but did not state a due date for the report.
“If there’s less value received from any properties that are sold, certainly the financing on the (Cadence purchase) has to come from somewhere. There are still variables that are yet to be determined on this project that will determine how we proceed,” he said. “I’ll take a few days to analyze what came in, and then I’ll make a determination on how to proceed. The board will have to evaluate (property bids, proposals and the architect’s renovation report) and make its own determination.
“We’re getting closer, but we’re not at a point where we’re working with all the information needed to make a decision,” the mayor added.
Three aldermen –Ward 4’s Jason Walker, Ward 5’s Scott Maynard and Little — say the potential deal will simply come down to the dollars and cents difference between City Hall renovations and the total cost — the property’s price tag, its own renovation estimates and costs associated with utilities and future SPD staffing — of taking on the Main Street facility.
Maynard previously said he did not believe the $1.3 million in COPs would fund enough renovations to get City Hall to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, let alone make every internal and external improvement necessary to get the building to a proper status.
“(The lack of interest in the two surplus properties) certainly draws some concerns,” he said. “(The cost of City Hall renovations) is a big factor that hasn’t been discussed yet. We have to see what it’s going to cost us to get into the respective buildings.”
Little and Walker both expressed interest in keeping the lagoon for future city usage. Its location, they said, is perfect for a major park facility as Starkville continues growing in that area.
“I don’t know if what we have gets us (to a point of buying Cadence), and honestly I don’t know if I have the appetite to sell the lagoon,” Little said. “That land could come into play for our kids, given the current (Starkville Parks and Recreation) situation. If we’re going to say we’re looking down the road with a real vision, we need to acknowledge that the land isn’t going to get any cheaper.”
Aldermen have the right to refuse any and all bids received in this process. They are expected to continue Cadence discussions at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch