Council approves City Hall financing

Published 5:17 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

The Bainbridge City Council took an important step in the proposed renovation of City Hall by approving financing for the project Tuesday.

The council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Downtown Bainbridge Development Authority, a board that was recently re-activated for the purpose of arranging funding for major downtown projects.

The intergovernmental agreement authorizes Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds to sign off on a private bond issuance that was arranged by Merchant Capital LLC of Montgomery, Ala. Seven banks were invited to bid on the bond issuance, while only two banks responded, City Manager Chris Hobby said. SunTrust Bank of Atlanta, Ga., submitted the low bid of 2.59 percent interest on a principal amount of $4,185,000.

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Architectural firm Clemons, Rutherford and Associates previously estimated the total renovation cost at $3.4 million. The larger amount the city will receive from SunTrust is the “maximum cost,” according to Hobby, and includes financing charges, architectural fees, furniture and fixtures and a 7-percent contingency amount.

The agreement requires the city government to provide the DBDA with enough funds to pay back the bonds, which can be paid back early at any time without penalty. The financing should be completed in December and the funds wired to the city.

The next step is for the council to consider a bid package from Childers Construction of Tallahassee, Fla., who is serving as the general contractor on the renovation and will present the final construction numbers at one of the council’s January meetings.

Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer asked what would happen if Childers Construction brought back figures that were “out of range” and the council decided not go forward. In that scenario, which Hobby said he deemed unlikely because of accurate cost estimating, the city could just repay the bonds early. Then it would only have to owe the accrued interest and some previously-agreed-upon fees with the architectural firm, he said.

In anticipation of the City Council giving its final approval for the City Hall renovation project, which will take about a year to complete, the Downtown Development Authority has been renovating the old Gowan Furniture Building at the corner of Broad and Water streets. The DDA purchased the building, which also formerly housed Allen Sports, earlier this year.


Two different boards: DBDA and DDA

The Downtown Bainbridge Development Authority is a separate entity from the Downtown Development Authority that has been operating in recent years.

Bainbridge has actually had two distinct Downtown Development Authorities, according to Community and Economic Development Director Amanda Glover. The first was formed in the early 1980s, around the same time Bainbridge’s national historic districts were being formed. The second DDA was activated in 1993, two years after the creation of Bainbridge’s Main Street program.

According to Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds, the difference between the two boards is that the DBDA was originally created under authority made available to local governments by the Georgia Constitution, although voters and/or legislators had to approve its creation. In contrast, the DDA was created by the Downtown Development Authorities Law of 1981, which stated that any municipality could have a DDA without going through the legislature, as long as the city government approved its creation.

Another key difference is that while the DDA can invest in a variety of building and public projects—such as the renovation of the former Gowan Building — it is prohibited by law from constructing government buildings, which would apply to the City Hall renovation project.

The DBDA board members are Ramsay Simmons III, City Councilwoman Glennie Bench, Ryan Phillips, Cile Messer, The Post-Searchlight Publisher Jeff Findley, School Superintendent Fred Rayfield and Kim Mills.