Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Pearce Has Questions on new City Borrowing

03/05/2019

Ruston’s Ward Four Alderman Jim Pearce last night had some perceptive questions regarding the city’s next bundle of money to be borrowed and spent on phase II of the sports complex on South Farmerville Street.

His questions came at Monday night’s meeting of the board.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said that if the council approved the $20 million bond issue, half the money would be borrowed on April 1 of this near, just four weeks away.

Pearce wondered why the hurry to borrow the money when plans have yet to be drawn up, nor has a detailed budget for the project been figured.

“We’re going to borrow the $10 million on April 1. I know we’ve hired an architect, but I don’t know if we’ve had any bills yet. I don’t know when we’re projecting to actually have some bills, but yet we’re going to borrow $10 million,” said Pearce.

“I’d rather see we get plans, we get an estimate. We don’t really know, because we don’t have anything drawn,” he added.

Mayor Ronny Walker said that they were following the advice of the city’s financial team, bond attorney Wes Shafto and financial advisor Lucius McGehee.

Shafto’s law firm is handling the bond sale, and McGehee’s firm, Argent Financial, is the paying agent, according to Hartt. She noted the interest rate is 3.075%.

Pearce also inquired about repayment of the loan, and it was revealed that the first month’s take from the restaurant/hotel sales tax was about $126 thousand. That translates into $1.5 million/year in tax revenue.

Pearce asked would that be enough for the yearly bond payment, and Hartt said it would not, as the payment required would be $2.5 million to $2.8 million.

Said Pearce, “So the new restaurant/hotel tax is not sufficient to pay the bonds, the $20 million?”

Replied Hartt, “Not as of January 1. But the hope is when the sports complex is in full operation, the hotels are full, and we have lots of visitors to the restaurants, it will cover that bond payment.”

During the debate late last year, the administration claimed there was enough extra money in the 2016 3/4 cent sales tax to make up any shortfall. However, any money diverted from that tax to pay the shortfall is money that won’t be available for other Moving Ruston Forward projects.

The final vote on the bond ordinance was 3-1, with Pearce voting no. Seigman was absent.

The council also amended the restaurant/hotel sales tax district ordinance, to include several new establishments and deleting closed businesses.

See here the document.

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Ruston Sports Complex Spending – $27 Million & Counting

03/04/2019

As of Wednesday, February 27, 2019, about $27 million has been spent to date on the sports complex under construction on South Farmerville Street. The amount represents only what has been paid out, and does not include any money already committed for future payment, or any new spending not yet contracted.

Lincoln Parish News Online reviewed over 170 individual invoices associated with the project, along with the accompanying payment vouchers.

Here are some of the more significant expenditures.

The project’s prime contractor, Womack & Sons Construction Group, has been paid about 60% of its $35 million contract with the city.

Womack’s January invoice lists $20,792,408.19 in payments and $14,303,949.45 remaining to be paid on the total contract amount of $35,096,357.64.

See here the document.

Assuming Womack is paid in full, that indicates the project’s total cost will be at least $41.3 million.

The costs include $2.1 million in property purchases. Also, Weyerhaeuser Company was paid slightly over $1 million for wetland mitigation credits.

Yeager, Watson & Associates, the project architect, has been paid $1.18 million.

About $1.22 million has been paid to several companies for engineering, surveying, or testing:

American Testing Lab, LLC – $152,504.25
Neel-Schaffer, Inc. – $515,569.60
Pan-American Engineers, LLC – $220,856.73
Riley Company of LA, Inc. – $326,701.95

About $229 thousand has been spent on electrical equipment.

About $221 thousand has been spent on computers, software, and fiber-optic equipment.

Recently, $111 thousand was spent to purchase restaurant and food service equipment.

As the project progresses, we will periodically update this report.

Ruston City Council Monday

03/03/2019

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, March 4, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton, first floor courtroom.

Here’s the agenda.

Mays Murder Trial Delayed for the Last Time, Judge Says

02/23/2019

After Third Judicial District Division B Judge Tommy Rogers reminded the concerned parties that this was the last continuance (delay) allowed, he ordered that the second degree murder trial of Cameron Mays was to be rescheduled for Monday, April 29, 2019.

The action came yesterday morning during a hearing in Ruston. Mays was in the courtroom, along with alleged accomplices Brandon Bonton, Robert Demps, and Markeva Daye.

Prior to the start of court, the prosecutor and the defense attorneys could be seen conferring and consulting their calendars.

Mays is charged with a June, 2012 crime spree that resulted in the alleged murder of retired Grambling State University Professor Dr. Sue Hashway.

He was also charged with the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a Louisiana Tech University co-ed, for which he was convicted in April, 2016. That crime took place several days prior to the Hashway death.

Among Bonton’s charges are theft, accessory to burglary, accessory to murder 2nd and drug possession.

Daye and Demps are both charged with accessory to murder 2nd, accessory to burglary, drug possession, and possession of stolen things.

Mays’ attorney, Kia Richardson, said that Mays had been held on lockdown at Angola, and was unable to confer with her and co-counsel Dwayne Burrell. Rogers granted a request for an order directing the Louisiana Department of Corrections to allow Mays and his attorneys to communicate.

Demps and Daye are represented by Ruston Attorney Forest Moegle. Bonton’s attorney is Robert Noel.

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson.

Sumlin Cased Delayed, Again

Last Tuesday, former State Representative William Sumlin was yet again granted a delay. The next hearing date is May 26, 1:30 PM.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015 on a charge of indecent behavior with juvenile(s).

LaValle Salomon represented Sumlin, and Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones appeared for the state.

Mayor Changes Council Meeting Format

02/05/2019

Claiming advice from the City Attorney, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said at last night’s meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen that he would no longer answer questions from the floor during public discussion. Comments would be allowed, but no questions would be answered, he said.

Said Walker, “Over the last few years of my administration, I have allowed people to ask questions, and I’m constantly reminded by our legal counsel that we are not supposed to do that – that is a comment. So, it will be comments in the future under my administration.

“My cell number is 278-9701 – I think everybody in the city probably has that. Our department heads and myself are always available to answer questions before the city council meetings, afterwards, or during the month, either way. Please understand that when we get to those times it is comments only.”

We have a definitive answer on what taxes are underwriting the proposed $20 million borrowing that the city is proposing.

BOTH the 1.75% sales tax enacted late last year by the council, AND the 3/4 cent sales tax approved in 2016 will be used to pay off the debt and interest.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said in her report that:

“This resolution authorizes Economic Development District No 1 of the City of Ruston to proceed with obtaining approval from (LA State) Bond Commission to issue the $20 million of sales tax revenue bonds for a term of 10 years, which will be secured by the 1.75 sales tax that was recently authorized to be levied and collected within this district.

“Because this is a new sales tax levy with no history of collections, the bond will be secured additionally by a portion of the 2016 3/4 cent sales tax.

“The stated purpose of the bonds is to pay the cost of any economic development project located within the district, including without limitation, public works and infrastructure projects to promote economic development in the district.

“Specifically, the funds will be used to expand the Ruston Sports Complex to include a splash pad, senior center, and indoor sports facility as previously discussed.”

In response to a comment from Ruston resident Mike Froelich, Walker said that the 10 year/$20 million term of the bond matched the expected revenue from the 1.75% restaurant/hotel sales tax over that same time period.

Alederman Jim Pearce asked if the total $20 million would be borrowed. Hartt said, “Correct. The bond paperwork reads that way because that’s what the tax would bear. It doesn’t mean we have to spend that much or go for that much.”

“But we could do a lesser amount?” asked Pearce.

Said Walker, “Yes.”

When the plan was first revealed last September, Walker said the tax would collect $1.75 million/year from dining patrons and hotel guests. Over ten years, that would amount to $17.5 million, not the $20 million figure claimed last night.

The resolution applying for bond commission approval was passed unanimously. The accompanying ordinance was introduced, and will be up for final approval at the next council meeting.

The council also approved a resolution approving property acquisition adjacent to the Ruston Airport.

Plans are to extend the runway, necessitating relocation of LA Hwy 146. The property purchases are for the highway’s right-of-way.

Pearce asked if the funding was from the Federal Aviation Administration, to which Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman said the airport expansion was funded by the FAA and the Louisiana Department of Transportation, but the road relocation was a City of Ruston capital project.

Asked how much, Freeman said that was estimated to be $2 million. Walker said that about $5 million was budgeted each year for capital projects.

Clarification on Ruston Borrowing

02/02/2019

We have some clarifications to make on yesterday’s story about Ruston’s upcoming $20 million bond offering.

The bonds will be secured by a portion of the revenue of the 3/4 cent sales tax approved by voters in 2016, and not the 1.75% restaurant/hotel tax enacted by the council last year.

Also, the proceeds from the borrowing are to be used for:

…paying the costs of any economic development project located within the District, as such costs are defined in La. R.S. 33:9038.36, including, without limitation, public works and infrastructure projects to promote economic development in the District;

The monies are not dedicated to Phase II of the Sports Complex. That project would likely require another bond issue.

Ruston to Borrow another $20 Million

02/01/2019

Ruston’s long-term debt load will increase by $20 million, if an ordinance that will be introduced at Monday’s meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen is enacted.

The debt’s interest and principal will be paid from the proceeds of the recently enacted 1.75% sales tax on restaurants and hotels.

The borrowed money is for projects related to the sports complex now under construction on South Farmerville Street.

See here the proposed ordinance.

Another agenda item is an amendment to the restaurant/hotel tax district that adds several new businesses and deletes two that have either relocated or closed.

See here the proposed amendment.

The meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, February 4, at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the complete agenda.

Service Road/Cooktown Corner added to District

01/09/2019

A three-acre tract of land at the immediate northeast corner of Cooktown Road and the North I-20 Service Road will be added to the Cooktown Road Economic Development District, if an ordinance introduced at Monday night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council is enacted.

The original district, created in late 2017, consists of 15 1/2 acres, and is now being developed by Chattanooga, TN-based Hutton Company.

According to Ruston City Attorney Bill Carter, Hutton recently acqired the 3 acre corner, and asked for it to be included into the district.

There was a bit of discussion about a resolution authorizing property acquisition for phase 4 of the Rock Island Greenway Project.

That part of the project runs from West Texas Avenue near South Monroe Street southward to West California near Henderson Street, approximately 1400 feet, according to the city’s Andrew Halbrook.

Kevin Crume asked for an update on the project’s total costs so far.

Halbrook said that phase two, about 11,000 feet, cost about $540 thousand. Phase 3 was about $740 thousand. Both parts each received $89 thousand in state grants.

Phase 4 cost estimates are about $350 thousand, he said, and a grant commitment has been received from the state.

After the meeting, the council and mayor were sworn in for their new terms by Third Judicial District Judge Jeff Robinson.

Ruston City Council Monday

01/06/2019

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, January 7, 2019, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Of note is this item to be considered:

Consider Resolution No. ________ of 2019, Authorizing the Publication of a Notice of Intention to (I) Expand the Boundaries of the Cooktown Road Economic Development District of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana, and (II) Extend the Levy and Collection of the District’s Existing Sales and Use Tax into the Expanded Area of the District, all in Accordance with as Authorized by Part II, Chapter 27 of Title 33 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as Amended; and Providing for Other Matters in Connection Therewith

Brief Ruston City Council Meeting Last Night

12/04/2018

Now that the heavy lifting of seizing more money from taxpayers got done last week, the Ruston City Council was able to get back to regular business for last night’s meeting.

The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

First up, an ordinance was introduced setting the date, time, and place of next year’s council meetings.

Traditionally, the meeting dates are the first business Monday of the month at 5:30 PM at the Ruston City Hall. The only meeting that deviates from that schedule is the 8/19/19 meeting, which will be at 6:30 PM. Usually, that meeting serves as a budget review where the next fiscal year’s budget is introduced.

Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman reported that the airport received a $46 thousand grant from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to replace runway reflectors.

Finally, the council approved 90-day deadlines for improvements to two substandard structures, one at 1109 Oakdale, and the other at 800 Lewis.