The on Tuesday moved one step closer to building a new Safety Center by approving a $6.28 million lease-purchasing agreement with U.S. Bank.
The vote passed 5-1, with Councilor Rhonda Pownell dissenting and Councilor Suzie Nakasian absent.
The lease-to-own agreement is for 20 years at a 2.85 percent interest rate.
That money will be combined with $1 million from the city’s general fund ($500,000), capital reserve fund ($400,000) and IT equipment replacement fund ($100,000) for the $7.28 million project, which will include a new police facility on a 4.2-acre site at 1601 Riverview Dr. behind . The will be renovated for continued use by the Northfield Fire Department.
Councilors—as they have been since this process started more than three years ago—came under fire from several residents, several of which are Council candidates.
and At-Large candidate spoke out against the financing of the project, which he believed to be illegal.
In an email to the City Council and Patch, Ludescher wrote: “If I am elected I will vote to not appropriate money to pay what I consider to be an ill-advised lease; I have no desire to see our police building owned by a private party who may hold the City and the police department hostage. Bond counsel has advised that a non-appropriation will result in severe damage to the City's credit rating even though the City is only leasing the facility. I am also of the legal opinion that this financing arrangement is not authorized by statute nor by the City Charter.”
City Finance Director Kathleen McBride assured councilors the bonding is legal and has been used by several other government entities, including counties, school district and cities.
Several councilors took offense to comments during the public speaking time accusing of them failing to represent their consistency and trying to push the financing plan through. Many public speakers, both at Tuesday’s meeting and many before, have called for the issue to go to the ballot in November’s election to give residents a say, instead of the council making the decision.
Councilor Erica Zweifel said she has talked with hundreds of her constituents about the financing plan for the new Safety Center.
“I feel I’m doing what I was elected to do here tonight in representing my constituency,” she said, adding that it was time to move on. “It has been a long process and a complicated process.”
Councilors and Patrick Ganey agreed.
Buckheit, who is running against Ludescher for the At-Large seat, said she was upset that speakers alleged the council acted with “less than good intentions” and “false analogy.”
Speaking before the vote took place, Mayor Mary Rossing said it was time to get the project done.
“I do believe this essential,” she said. “This is necessary. This is a reasonable financing method.”
The Council had to come up with a new financing plan after the Housing & Redevelopment Authority last month had a on acting as the body overseeing $7.28 million in lease-revenue bonds.