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New alderman not opposed 'per se' to police building; funding a concern

A newly elected Crestwood aldermen says he's not opposed to a new police building "per se,'' but believes the city has to be in a position to be able to afford it.

"... I think that there's a lot of questions that need to be addressed here. I'm not against the building, per se, but I think we have to be in a position that we can afford it,'' said Jerry Miguel, who was sworn in as a Ward 3 alderman at the April 27 Board of Aldermen meeting.

In a Call candidate questionnaire, Miguel, who was elected April 6, said that he believed construction of the new police station "needs to be stopped, or at least put on hold until the city's finances are in order ... Assurances that we can spend $1 million per year for street repairs while we spend $15 million for a new police station are no longer valid, if they ever were. And has anyone calculated the annual operating cost the new police building will add to the general fund?

"The bottom line is the city cannot afford a new police building, at least not at this time.''

Crestwood voters in August 2002 approved Proposition S, the extension of a half-cent sales tax to fund construction of the new police building, provide revenue for repairs at City Hall and allow the continuation of the city's street repair and replacement program. The half-cent, capital-improvements sales tax had been scheduled to end in 2008, but voter approval of Proposition S extended the sales tax until 2023.

The city subsequently issued $9.83 million in certificates of participation to fund the construction of the new police building and the repairs to City Hall.

Besides raising the issue of the affordability of the new police building last week, Miguel noted that when the capital-improvements sales tax originally was approved by city voters in 1993, the board established a policy that 75 percent of the revenue generated would be spent on streets and the remaining 25 percent would be used for other capital expenditures as determined by aldermen.

Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan asked, "City Administrator (Don) Greer, the money that is going to be used to pay for this building is going to come out of the capital improvements budget, is it not?''

That is correct, Greer said, noting that the bond-like certificates would be retired with revenue from the half-cent, capital-improvements sales tax.

Fagan said, "... Is it fair to say that none of the money is going to be coming from the general fund, at least in terms of constructing the project?''

Greer said, "That's correct.''

Fagan continued, "OK. Is there enough money based on past revenues and projections in terms of the ability of the city to pay the certificates of participation off on, I forgot, is it 20 years, 15 years, whatever it is?''

Greer said, "Yes.''

Fagan said, "OK. Is it something that — that was told to the voters when it was put on the ballot to extend the sales tax that even though the original sales tax included a 75 percent allocation for the streets, that it was well known that that may change and that the cost of the building was going to be included for the addition of the (sunset), the extension of the (sunset).''

Greer said, "That's my understanding of it. I can't speak for everyone, but that was my understanding of that.''

Fagan said, "... I think we're mixing apples and oranges here. Even if we're having problems in our general fund with the finances, the capital improvements fund and the parks and stormwater fund are both running at a positive balance, are they not?''

Greer said, "Yes.''

"So I think with all due respect to make the assertion that we can't afford to pay for this is not correct ...,'' Fagan said, asking Greer if city officials intend to continue spending money on the street program.

Greer said, "Yes.''

Fagan said, "That's your intent?''

Greer said, "Yes.''

Fagan said, "OK. So with that being said, it's fair to say that the streets are going to continue to get redone or done, but my understanding is our present public works director thinks we can work smarter, if you will, and more efficiently in repairing and replacing streets. Is that correct?''

Greer said, "That's correct.''

Earlier in the meeting, Miguel had voiced concerns about the cost to operate the new police building when it is constructed.

"The other thing that I have not heard was what is it going to cost to operate this building once it's constructed. I've heard nothing along the lines of operational costs,'' Miguel said.

In response to Miguel's question about operating costs for the building, Greer later noted, "... My original estimates were somewhere in the neighborhood of $125,000 to $150,000 a year. That was my guess as we were going into it. Just recently as we neared the, I guess, 95th percent — is that what it's called — for the architect's design work, I then asked them because now the HVAC systems are done and everything else, I asked them to give us a pretty good indication and they are using a $4 a square foot number. And that $4 a square foot is essentially the low end of the estimate that I've been using.

"I, too, share your concern with regard to — because that is general fund now ... We are talking about adding an additional — in all likelihood let's use the $150,000 because I like to give you the worst case kind of a thing. We are talking about adding that to the operating expenses of the city on an ongoing basis. It's an operating expense for utilities ... I believe it's far enough out that we can plan for it and make that work, but I share that concern. I don't want you to think that hasn't been thought of or that hasn't been considered because it's something that we've been aware of ...'' the city administrator added.

Regarding the 75/25 split on the use of revenue from the capital-improvements sales tax, Greer said, "... There's a lot of discussion about the 75/25 (split) and unless the city attorney wants to correct me, that's not a legal obligation. That was a decision that was made by the board at the time and then the board at the time you chose to go forward with the extension with the idea in mind that you were going to build a police building knew that that 75/25 split was not going to work anymore.

"So the board made a decision to move in another direction ... You have the ability to change the priorities and distributions or how you spend that money as long as you stay within what's required by the statute that approved it ...,'' he added.

In a separate matter last week, the board conducted a public hearing on a site plan review for a new Aldi's that would occupy 16,032 square feet on the west side of the former Circuit City building at 9274 Watson Road.

Aldermen voted unanimously to have City Attorney Rob Golterman draft an ordinance approving the site plan review.

That ordinance will be considered when the board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, at City Hall, 1 Detjen Drive.

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