As I mentioned in my column last month, we are working to improve the City of Heath through implementing much needed capital improvements. I want to take this opportunity to update our community on this and other issues.
Bond Revenues Fund Infrastructure Repairs and Improvements
At our Council meeting on July 9, 2013, the Heath City Council authorized the refinancing and sale of bonds that will result in approximately $8.175 million proceeds to be used for capital improvements without impacting the ad valorem tax rate or utility rates this year. The proceeds will be used to fund infrastructure projects that address immediate street, utility and drainage repair and improvement needs.
After approval of the City’s 2013 Capital Improvement Plan, this bond issuance is the next step in the process. I am proud that our City team was able to move quickly to arrange for the bond issuance, and very pleased that the issuance of these bonds will allow us to proceed with completing much needed projects.
The City received the AA rating, which is very good for a community of our size, according to Jim Sabonis, the City’s financial advisor. This high rating combined with favorable interest rates resulted in what Mr. Sabonis called “a very successful bond sale”.
The bond issuance had two components: refinancing previously issued bonds; and issuing new bonds. By refinancing General Obligation Bonds issued in 2003, we achieved a savings of $890,000 on existing debt of $1.6 million without extending the maturity of the previously issued bonds. Through the issuance and sale of 2013 Combination Tax and Surplus Revenue Certificates of Obligation, we achieved approximately $8.175 million in proceeds which will be used immediately for street repair and utility projects, including the following:
- Fm 740 Phase 2 Utility Relocation
- Heathland Crossing Water Line
- Jeff Boyd 12″ Water Line
- Shepherd’s Glen Force Main and Gravity Sewer Improvements
- Townsend (Rockwall) Pump Station
Both the bond refinancing and sale transactions are scheduled to close August 8, 2013.
Town Hall Meeting on Capital Improvements Plan Set for August 13
As I have written before, we will continue to discuss the projects included in the Capital Improvement Plan in open, public meetings in order to inform our citizens and receive input on the Capital Improvement Plan. I have already begun to address project priorities with the City Staff, and we have met with residents of the Cobblestone community in an effort to address some of their concerns with one of the proposals.
The City Council’s focus on investing in the future of the City will continue at a Town Hall Meeting to be held in conjunction with the City Council Meeting on August 13. Information about the City’s proposed Capital Improvements Plan will be presented, and citizens will have the opportunity to ask questions and share input.
The Capital Improvements Plan includes over $20 million in projects that the City Council has determined will benefit the entire community and deliver positive, visible improvements throughout the City. Of the $20 million in projects, $2.9 million will be completed with existing City funds, approximately $8.175 million will be funded by the bond sale as discussed above, and the remaining balance will likely be funded through future bond issuances.
The additional projects planned include:
- Rebuilding Crisp, Myers, White and Rabbit Ridge roads
- An entry feature on the north side of the City
- Upgrading the Department of Public Safety radio systems
- New trails (including a connection from Towne Center Park to Terry Park)
- The new Towne Center Park Driveway to alleviate traffic congestion around Amy Parks-Heath Elementary School
While these items are currently included within the plan, it is important to note that a Capital Improvements Plan is structured to allow the flexibility to respond to new opportunities or growth issues as they emerge. Therefore, changes may be made to the Capital Improvement Plan as the program proceeds.
As noted above, one significant benefit of moving forward with this Plan now is that the City will secure historically low interest rates when the Certificate of Obligation Bonds necessary to fund the projects are issued. With interest rates near an all-time low, this is an ideal time to invest in our community. Just as consumers are getting more home for their money in the current financing climate, the City will do the same with our projects.
More information about the Capital Improvements Plan can be obtained by calling the City offices [972-961-4892].
Heath Golf and Yacht Club Update
In 2007, the City Council approved a Concept Plan for the Heath Golf and Yacht Club Development that encompasses nearly 800 acres in the Southwest portion of the City.
In December of 2012, the developers requested that the City consider creating a Public Improvement District (PID) to provide funding for onsite and off-site infrastructure improvements. The City Council conducted an extensive due diligence study on this proposal, which included a public hearing that was extended multiple times.
This proposal for a PID attracted significant public interest, and I am thankful for the input we received from our citizens. The petition to form the PID was brought before the City Council for a vote on June 25, but was tabled at that meeting to allow further study and analysis. Since then, the developer has withdrawn its application for a PID, and that option is no longer being considered by the City.
Nonetheless, as evidenced by two unanimous City Council votes approving the Concept Plan and Zoning for the property, this remains a development project which could be very advantageous to future development of the City. If completed, this development is projected to increase our City’s ad valorem tax base by almost 50%, allowing us to increase our City water and sewer system and provide funds for off-site improvements. Based upon our discussions since the June 25 City Council meeting, we understand that the developer will continue to work to complete this project, without the creation of a PID.
These are busy and exciting times for the City, and I hope you will plan to attend the August 13 Town Hall meeting on the Capital Improvements Plan. You are also welcome to contact me, or any of my colleagues on the City Council directly, as we always want to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
Lorne O. Liechty