NORTH OGDEN — The city council has decided to use $2.2 million in city savings to pay for a new public works facility.
The decision was not unanimous and is not set in stone. The decision to use city savings can change, and the council agreed to look at bonding if, during the design/build process, it is discovered that more money is needed to meet the basic needs for the complex.
City Councilman Wade Bigler said the $2.2 million figure is a guide for the committee to go by to start the request-for-proposals process to get things moving.
The original proposal for the public works complex in 2011 was a not-to-exceed price of $10 million.
The public works committee talked about the issue, and the council continued the conversation at a recent city council meeting. At the public works meeting, the city engineer, Matt Hartvigsen from Jones and Associates, gave a high estimate of $3.5 million to $3.9 million to complete the complex. Hartvigsen said his figures were high and were rough estimates.
Bigler had said previously, along with some other committee members, that he wanted to stay in the $2 million range. Committee member Dan Nixon, who has worked helping the city acquire real estate and has researched the ins and outs of the project, said he felt more comfortable with the engineer’s findings.
Bigler suggested going with a more basic plan that would include office space and shops buildings would be a good starting point. His plan suggests using much of the old public works space for a time because the new proposed site is near the existing site. The proposed location of the new facility has not been revealed because the property owner and the city have not made the announcement.
City Councilman Kent Bailey said the approval of the money is also based on obtaining the proposed property and if that changes, everything else, including funding, can change. Bailey also said city employees can do much of the site improvements and that residents have also volunteered to do site improvements to save the city some money.
City Councilman Brent Taylor was the one dissenting vote against using city savings for the project. He proposed using 60 percent city money and bonding for 40 percent.
“To make ends meet during the recession without raising taxes, the city has been robbing Peter to pay Paul between various city funds, but the point is that we still have to pay Peter back,” Taylor said in an email. He is concerned that pulling from several different capital projects funds is too risky.
City Manager Ron Chandler told the council that for several years the way the city has stayed afloat has been to not do a lot of capital improvements. The city has also taken money from the motor pool fund that also needs to be put back.
He said that at some point, the council will need to think about that. He worked out five- and 10-year plans with the finance director on how to do that, but he also said the excess funds in the budget can be unpredictable.
Bailey, Bigler and City Councilman Justin Fawson suggested that the city not go into debt now for the building, but should consider bonding to do road repairs if needed. Currently the city has budgeted to have 18 percent in the budget’s fund balance — the maximum amount allowed by the state. To build the public works complex, it will cut that savings down to 10 percent or a bit lower.
In an email, Chandler said with the exception of two or three years, the city has had a fund balance greater than 18 percent for 15 years.
Bigler isn’t worried, though. He feels the economy is doing better and there will be more excesses coming to the city, but Taylor doesn’t agree.
“Taking nearly every conceivable penny from all possible funds in the city to build an even further-reduced version of the public works project just so we can say we didn’t use any debt does not make sense,” Taylor said.
Bailey said the project will still be top-notch. He feels confident that using city savings is the best way to go, and that it will give residents what they need.
“We have no intention of building on the cheap. We will provide our community with a first-class facility. It just may not be done all at once,” Bailey said in an email.
Mayor Richard Harris brought up that the council also needs to look at what will happen with employee wages in light of a recent study saying pay for employees is too low. He said taking money from many savings sources in the city may make it difficult to compensate employees.
Bigler said the employee compensation issue is complicated but that he feels confident the city manager can help them find some ways to save money.
Public Works Committee member Phillip Swanson spoke to the council following the vote.
“I hope the stars align so we can do it without bonding,” Swanson said.
He told the council he was glad they haven’t completely ruled out bonding if the need arises.
“This is based on a lot of assumptions. I hope you are sincere about your willingness to go into indebtedness.”