State bond commission to review Vidalia project
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, May 20, 2015
VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia’s Square on Carter proposal will go before the Louisiana State Bond Commission Thursday.
The proposal was delayed for two months after State Treasurer John Kennedy removed it from the March agenda, saying at the time he had too many questions about the $7 million infrastructure project. He has since met with city officials about the matter.
The Square on Carter proposal would have the City of Vidalia take out bonds to purchase two separate parcels of land near the western end of town, 31.67 acres owned by Scroggins Investment Company and 32.72 acres owned by BCHT, LLC. The land would then be developed with infrastructure to allow for retail, residential and office development.
Email newsletter signup
Kennedy said the decision to place the proposal on the agenda was made after a meeting Tuesday.
“During the hearing, the staff will describe the project, and I will allow the mayor and his team to explain why we ought to do it,” he said. “Then I will entertain a motion about what the bond commission wants to do.”
But while he will allow the bond commission to hear it, Kennedy said he has reservations about the project.
“I don’t like to keep items off the agenda whether I agree or disagree with them. We all needed the time to understand what was being proposed here,” Kennedy said. “(Mayor Hyram Copeland) is proposing to use tax payer dollars to buy a piece of land and develop it, (and) as far as I can tell, there are no commitments from anybody to locate on the property. To me it is a case of government trying to do something the private sector should do.”
Kennedy said that while the project will be presented to the bond commission, he considers it “very, very speculative.”
“I have asked repeatedly who wants to commit to locate on this property, and the answer is ‘nobody,’” he said.
“If they had private companies lined up already to come in to this project, that would be one thing, but they don’t have a single one. They have said they have people who have said they are interested, but building something and hoping that someone will come is very dangerous.”
Kennedy said he thinks a bank would be willing to loan the money for the project because it would be backed by the full faith and credit of the City and the royalties Vidalia receives from the Sidney A. Murray Hydroelectric Station.
“Just because the government has a bunch of extra money, that doesn’t mean they have to spend it,” he said. “They can always give it back to the taxpayers.
“An alternative would be to rebate some money to people on their electricity bill. And in my opinion it ought to be considered.”
Kennedy said the alternative will be discussed Thursday.
Kennedy said his opinions were “not personal against the mayor” and it’s possible the proposal if approved “could work out beautifully.”
Copeland did not return a phone message about this story.
The bond commission meeting will be 8 a.m. Thursday in the state Senate. Streaming video of the proceedings can be watched online at legis.la.gov.