Meridian Star

October 8, 2013

County moves forward on 2nd bond issue

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     In a split vote on Monday, the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors set in motion steps to pass a new bond issue for $3.5 million to pay for the West Lauderdale Youth sports complex.  

    District Three Supervisor Josh Todd said he wanted to start over with a bond issue, separate from the $14 million issue that is held up in the Mississippi Supreme Court, so hopefully this project can get under way this spring, as he had originally intended.

    The West Lauderdale project is part of a larger bond issue that supervisors have proposed to fund that and similar projects at Clarkdale and in Meridian, at Highland Park, as well as renovations to the Lauderdale courthouse.

    The bond issue has drawn opponents who filed an objection in Lauderdale Chancery Court to stop the bond validation, which is a necessary legal step before the bonds can be sold. Opponents lost that bid but have filed an appeal in the state’s high court. That appeal was filed Thursday and could take between six months and a year to get resolved.

    In the meantime, Todd said he wants his project to move forward, so he recommended the $3.5 million issue on Monday, which is a totally new bond issue that will have to go through the same process as the original $14 million, including an opportunity for citizens to hold a petition drive to force an election on the bond issue. A petition drive on the original bond issue failed and the question of whether more than 300 signatures should have been included in the final count is the basis for the Supreme Court appeal.

    Questions arose on Monday about whether the new bond issue could add to cost of the original $14 million bond issue, but Todd said that was never his intent. He said the county will merely deduct $3.5 million from the total.

    Board attorney Rick Barry advised the board that they can simply not issue the other bonds. District Two Supervisor Wayman Newell, who, along with District Five Supervisor Kyle Rutledge, has consistently voted against the $14 million bond issue, asked Barry if the two bonds combined, at $17.5 million, could all be used.

    “I think that’s probably true,” Barry said.

    Newell said he didn’t want to put the county taxpayers at the risk of a $17.5 million bond issue.

      "That was never my intention to begin with," Todd said. "That was not my intention at all to go over $14 million, at all."

    Todd said he wouldn't support any vote that would take the total cost over $14 million.

    The motion to pass a resolution of intent to pass $3.5 million bond issue to fund the West Lauderdale project passed 3-2, with Todd, District One Supervisor Hank Florey, and District Four Supervisor Joe Norwood voting in favor. Newell and Rutledge voted against.

    Other motions were also made regarding the bond issue, including one by Rutledge to go ahead and call for an election on the bond issue, as petitioners had sought. He and Newell voted in favor but it did not pass.

    During the vote on the $3.5 million issue, Newell offered an amendment to void the original $14 million issue that is now in court, but that motion failed.     

    Todd offered a motion declaring that the intent of the bond issue is to not issue recreation and courthouse bonds to exceed $14 million. That motion passed.