Weaver council agrees on $815K loan proposal
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Nov 05, 2013 | 2301 views |  0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WEAVER – Despite some delays in business growth, and the concern of more than one elected official, the Weaver City Council is moving forward with a plan to borrow $815,000.

It will pay for several long-term projects, including paving Jacksonville Street for an estimated $200,000, getting matching grant funds for improvements to the city’s park and buying equipment for the Public Works Department.

The estimated annual payments on the loan would be about $73,000 for 15 years.

Mayor Wayne Willis said he was taken back by how quickly his initial $500,000 proposal for a loan ballooned when presented to the council. He’d thought council members would try to talk the number down, he said.

“I guess I did a pretty good job as a salesman,” Willis said.

The $300,000 increase mostly came from the suggestion of Councilman Jeff Clendenning, who said the extra money was necessary to buy Public Works equipment, including a new backhoe and a vehicle to cut tree limbs on the Chief Ladiga Trail.

“In order to do the things he wants me to do, I need that equipment,” said Public Works Director Joey Conger of the mayor’s requests for services.

Conger said the department has been maintaining the trail with a string trimmer.

“Either you get the equipment or you cut services,” Conger said. “And no one wants to cut services.”

And no one wants to pay back a hefty loan that the city can’t afford, said the mayor, who had to shoot down a proposal for the loan to top $1 million.

“I’m confident we can pay this loan, but it’s still a roll of the dice,” Willis said.

Willis isn’t the only member of the council with reservations about the loan. For Councilman Les Hill, who suggested the city borrow no more than $500,000, the biggest concern is about projected revenue from two businesses that haven’t even opened yet. Although both the Classic at Buckhorn restaurant and Discount Foods grocery store were scheduled to open earlier in the fall, unforeseen construction problems delayed both projects. Gary Angel, the developer of Buckhorn and the new Classic restaurant, said he hopes to be open before Thanksgiving, but still needs kitchen appliances, plumbing and the proper permits before he can get started.

There’s currently no set date for the opening of Discount Foods near downtown.

Hill said he’s not worried about the businesses’ delayed openings, but he’s cautious about how much money they will bring to the city.

“We have projected revenue, but we don’t know how much they will bring in,” Hill said. “It’s a gamble.”

If the grocery store opens and stays in business, the city is on the hook for $20,000 a year for five years because of an incentive it gave owner Mike Sanders to come to Weaver. Councilman Mike Warren opposed the business incentive for the grocery store earlier this year, and his suggestion of a $1 million loan included money set aside to pay the $20,000 as well as other incentives the city could use to lure future business.

“There’s lots of things the city can do to help out business,” Warren said. “Could be something as simple as paving a road.”

Willis said, however, setting aside money from a loan or bond could end up costing the city more in the long run, especially if the grocery store goes out of business.

“You’re talking about paying interest for 20 years on something that we could pay off in five years,” Willis said. “I just don’t think that’s a smart decision.”

Warren said, however, the $1 million figure isn’t unrealistic, and Weaver has paid back a bigger loan in the past. In 1993, Warren said he was part of a City Council that took out a $1.1 million municipal bond to pay for City Hall and the police station.

“And our budget was a lot smaller then, I think about $1 million less than today,” Warren said.

That bond would have been nearing the end of its payback period, but Warren said the council paid off the remainder of the loan during the previous administration under Mayor Garry Bearden. Warren said part of that bond included $200,000 set aside for reconstructing Jacksonville Street. That money, along with money from the general fund, eventually went back to paying off the bond.

The city’s current loan proposal has $200,000 earmarked for paving Jacksonville Street.

“Right back where we started is pretty much the sum of it,” Warren said. “The money then was reconstruction, and now it’s just paving and striping.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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