Despite the fact that several city councilmembers didn’t understand exactly what they were doing, the proposed $135 million in bonds were authorized to go to referendum.
At the Tuesday, Aug. 31 City Council virtual meeting, the total bond package and each individual bond was authorized by 8-0 votes after the required public hearings where nobody spoke.
The bond public hearings had originally been on the agenda for the Aug. 17 meeting and were continued to the Aug. 31 meeting because the advertising requirements set by state law had not been met. Because this was a virtual meeting anyone who wanted to speak had to sign up by Monday, Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. and no one did.
Councilmember Justin Outling spoke during the roll call vote on the total bond package. Discussion is supposed to take place before the vote, but on this City Council it is not unusual for a councilmember to speak about the topic when they are called on to vote.
Outling made his usual speech about bonds simply being a way for the city to borrow money like an individual using a credit card or taking out a mortgage and that there should be a defined need for the money being borrowed.
He noted that the city had only spent about half of the 2016 bond money, bonds that he fully supported. He added that since the bond process started, the city learned it would be receiving close to $60 million in American Rescue Plan money plus an additional $10 million for the Coliseum.
Outling said, “The bonds will result in a tax increase that all community residents will have to bear.”
Despite his statements questioning the need for the bonds, Outling voted for the $135 million bond package and for the individual bonds.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower during the public hearings asked about the vote, “Is this to have a public hearing?”
Hightower added, “Let me be very clear, I really only support two bonds – housing and parks and recreation.” However, Hightower voted for all the bonds.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm was also confused about exactly what the City Council was voting to approve. She said, “It’s not too late for use to do something less than this amount for these bonds.”
She added, “But we are at a calendar point in time where we have to say that this is the maximum that we will consider.”
Assistant City Manager Larry Davis corrected that misunderstanding explaining that the City Council was setting the dollar amount for the bonds and any change up or down would start the process over. He said, “Movements after tonight up or down would reset the bond calendar.”
The date for the bond referendum has not been set but Mayor Nancy Vaughan said it would either be held at the March 8 City Council primary or at the City Council general election, which will be either in April or May.
The bonds that will go on that ballot are $30 million in housing bonds, $70 million in parks and recreation bonds, $14 million in firefighting facility bonds, $6 million in law enforcement bonds and $15 million in transportation bonds.
One more City Council vote is needed to place the bonds on the ballot.