Recreation forums set in Vidalia

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 26, 2010

VIDALIA — Public forums to discuss the new Vidalia recreation complex have been scheduled.

Recreation District No. 3 President Marc Archer said the first meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. April 8 in the police jury meeting room at the Concordia Parish Courthouse, and the second meeting is scheduled for April 15 at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

In addition to addressing the plans for the new complex, Archer said recreation board members will discuss the district’s tax renewal vote, which will be May 1.

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“We are going to talk about the renewal of the tax, and how it is going to benefit this project and make sure this is what the people want and if they have any questions about it,” Archer said.

The 3.78-mil tax is already on the books and is being collected, and hasn’t reached its time for renewal yet.

But in order for the recreation district to get the loan it needs to build the complex from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it needs to be able to demonstrate that it has a guaranteed income for the duration of the loan period, and Archer said that means the district is asking voters to renew the tax for 40 years.

“We have to show we are going to pay it back and have a guaranteed payment,” Archer said. “We can pay it off in 22 years, but the USDA does not have a 22-year loan program.”

Archer said he believes this is the first time in state history that a project of this magnitude — an approximately $5 million project — has been taken on with a tax millage of 3.78 mils.

“Usually when they do this, they take out 14 or 15 mils,” he said.

The district will be able to do it in part because the land has already been purchased and Archer said the district has more than $1 million in the bank.

The district will also receive a matching grant somewhere between 20 and 30 percent, Archer said.

“If it is 20 percent, that is $1 million,” he said. “We know we are going to get a matching grant, but we don’t know how much yet.”

While the aim is to pay everything off in 22 years, that will ultimately depend on what bids come in for the project.

“It may take 18 years and it may take 23 to pay off,” Archer said.

“Hopefully, we will be breaking ground on this project pretty quickly. I have been working on this thing for four-and-a-half years and the recreation board has worked very hard on this.”

The new complex will be located on U.S. 84 on the west side of Vidalia near Walmart.

The land on which it will be built was bought in a joint effort between the City of Vidalia and the recreation district, with the city buying 30 acres and the district buying 20 adjacent acres. The city later leased the land it purchased to the recreation district.

The property was purchased for $17,000 an acre.