City council to tackle paving program tonight

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Dec. 17, 2002
Meridian city councilmen are expected to announce their intent tonight to borrow $5 million to pave and repair city streets the first necessary step before they can actually make a loan.
Thomas and other councilmen are expected to discuss the issue at their 7 p.m. meeting in the municipal courtroom at the Meridian Police Department headquarters.
Council members also are expected to set a citywide public hearing for residents to share their views on the proposal. Council members have not yet decided which streets would be improved.
Tonight's vote comes more than a month after Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith announced plans to ask the council to borrow the money, which includes issuing general obligation bonds.
If councilmen give final approval to the proposal which could be sometime in January the work could start next spring.
Unsure about taxes
City leaders say they remain unsure if they would have to raise property taxes to repay for the $5 million loan.
Meridian currently has about $11 million in outstanding general obligation bond debt. City officials last borrowed money through general obligation bonds in 2000 $1.1 million for street-related work.
Ed Skipper, the city's chief financial officer, has said that the city has paid off about $2 million a year in outstanding debt.
Thomas said he won't give final approval to the proposed $5 million loan if it would require higher taxes. He said his sole concern with the paving program is "taking on long-term debt to pave city streets."
Dividing the money
Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr. said he's in favor of borrowing the money. But he said he wants to make sure the money is divided equally between the city's five wards.
Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson agreed.
Other councilmen have concerns about how the money will be spent. Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith said he fears the city may use loan money to add two lanes to North Hills Street, making it four lanes.

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