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July 10, 2014

What’s next for recreation/event center project?

GREENVILLE — Although the Greenville City Council voted this week to approve the establishment of a new recreation/event center, it will likely be at least a few years before anyone is playing basketball, going for a swim or attending a graduation ceremony inside the facility.

The council’s  Tuesday night vote allows City Manager Massoud Ebrahim to proceed to the next step.

“I started today,” Ebrahim said Wednesday.

Local residents are now also likely to see at least a two cent increase in the city’s property tax rate included in next year’s budget.

The council voted 4-2 in favor of a plan to construct a recreation and event center in the Greenville SportsPark and directed the city staff to complete the process of selling $15 million in general obligation bonds.

Last summer, the city solicited statements of qualifications from professional architects and engineering firms “who have extensive experience in the planning, design, and construction management of public recreation facilities.”

The winning firm(s) would be responsible for crafting the design for what would become the recreation/event center.

Ebrahim said he received 21 submissions by the Sept. 20, 2013 deadline, but never got the chance to present them to the council.

“I am going to go through them and I am going to select an architectural and/or engineering company for the project,” Ebrahim said, adding he will then negotiate with the winning firm(s), before presenting it to the council for the awarding of a contract.

“That should take a couple of months,” Ebrahim said. “Then we can proceed with the preliminary design and the preliminary estimate for the project.”

Once a final design and estimate are reached, the city can proceed with selling the bonds.

Up until that point, Ebrahim can proceed under a reimbursement resolution passed last year, which would authorize up to $2.5 million in spending on the project from the city’s general fund balance, to be repaid once the bonds are sold.

Ebrahim has said that is expected to result in an additional two-cent tax increase next year, and this is where things get even more complicated.

“Meanwhile, we will be in contact with our financial advisers and our bond counsel, to give us advice as to the best time to sell the bonds,” Ebrahim said. “We need to make sure that tapping into our fund balance will not adversely affect our bond rating.”

The city is also preparing to sell bonds to pay for the reconstruction of portions of three local streets, for which Ebrahim is asking the council to approve a one-cent increase in the property tax rate.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, however, the council had asked Ebrahim to see about delaying that tax increase, if possible.

Selling the bonds is expected to add another four to seven cents to the property tax rate, depending on the final cost of the project and the interest rate the city will be paying on the bonds, among other factors.

Once the recreation center bonds are sold, likely in early 2015, the project has an estimated 30 month schedule for completion and occupancy.

And, while the YMCA of Greenville and Hunt County has been mentioned since the beginning of the project as the agency which would manage the facility under a lease from the City of Greenville, the process of determining who will actually operate the recreation/event center won’ be decided until a formal agreement is reached with the council.

City Attorney Daniel Ray said Tuesday that choosing the agency who will be running the center “will take several months of negotiations.”

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