By Sarah Richardson
Lewisburg City Council met Tuesday, Mar. 15, with a packed agenda. One big-ticket item discussed was the new Public Works building, which will be located at Caldwell adjacent to the municipal water plant on recently-acquired property.
Attorney John Stump, bond counsel for the city, said that in order to finance a public building a building commission must act as a “conduit” for funding by permitting finances.
“First of all, congratulations on the quality of your building commission. We met earlier today and I am impressed with the group,” said Stump.
He explained that the public works structure is provided for under state law, and that the building commission is a sub-unit of the city. The commission issues bonds, which he said is nothing more than a debt obligation, then the proceeds of the bond are loaned to the city for the purpose of acquiring, designing, constructing, and equipping the building. The city then leases the building from the building commission for the amount equal to the bonds issued.
Overall, Ordinance 302 authorizes the “conveyance of real property, fixtures and personal property and appurtenances to the City of Lewisburg Building Commission” where the public works building will be erected, and allows the leasing of that property back to the city. The document states that the principal amount of the lease revenue bonds is not to exceed $5 million.
“We are not taking any action this evening that is final, or commits the city to do anything at all,” said Stump. “If you get bids in at the public works building project comes in at $10 million, which we certainly hope doesn’t happen, and you decide not to build it, you don’t have to do anything. You simply elect not to move forward.”
The first reading of the ordinance was passed unanimously.
Council also approved the first reading of Ordinance 301, a Home Rule amendment for municipal sales and use tax. In November, council motioned to recommend a sales tax adoption to the Home Rule Board. The proposed one percent tax will be for “mainly retail” transactions within the Lewisburg city limits. The funds will go directly to city maintenance, improvements, and daily operations, which council cited as vitally important as Lewisburg continues to grow.
“With raising one percent here, we would lower one percent of the Business and Ordinance tax,” noted City Manager Misty Hill. She said an estimated $1,891,309.71 would have been generated in just the last fiscal year if this tax was in place. Only a small handful of similarly-sized cities in the state do not implement a one percent sales tax.
Proposed projects that this tax could fund include funding the parks department relocation, possible upgrades at the Caldwell boat launch, potential upgrades at Dorie Miller Park including the idea of a dog park and short pump track, additional parking areas downtown, expanding the Lewisburg Police Department, and more.
The one percent sales tax would not go into effect until July 1, 2023.
In other news:
- The North House Museum has been working with the city and New River Technical College to take ownership of the lease of the old library building on Courtney Street. “They are going to take the remaining lease from the New River College,” explained Hill. “We’ve met with Dr. Copenhaver [of NRCTC] and she is extremely excited, North House is extremely excited, they’ve already written a grant that will hopefully help take on the exterior construction that needs done there to repoint and do some brick and mortar and repaint the building.” The city approved the lease agreement.
- Councilmember John Little thanked the public works department for taking care of dog waste around town via “dog pots” that offer bags for dog waste and trash cans that the city maintains.
- Sarah Elkins reports that the Parks Commission met and has decided on colors for the new pickleball court, which will be gray and blue in the center (the city’s colors) and green everywhere else. There are also 16 newly-planted trees outside of the pickleball and skate park fence for privacy and sound dampening.
- Arron Seams said that the Finance Committee considered an Arts and Humanities grant application filed by the Lewisburg Foundation that will go toward landscaping at the Confederate Cemetery. The mulch will be changed to grass, and several boxwoods will be planted. This amount will not exceed $5,622.77. Mayor White noted that the cemetery is “the most visited area in the city of Lewisburg” and said that the beautification is a reflection of the city. The changes will also cost less with regular upkeep and maintenance.