NORTH OGDEN — Though North Ogden leaders have stated their intent to issue bonds to help pay for a new police headquarters building, it’s not yet a done deal.
Residents, if so inclined, still have the option of petitioning to force the question of bonding — which could potentially lead to a property tax hike — to the ballot. Thus, voters would decide if borrowing money is the way to go. That said, no one has publicly stepped forward stating plans to start a petition drive, which would potentially slow the plans, even halt them altogether if successful.
When the council reached public consensus in late March, Mayor Neal Berube recalls hearing some talk of forcing the issue to the ballot box. He didn’t report any recent talk, though, and, indeed, noted that he’s been hearing favorable comments.
“I would say we’ve had a lot of positive public feedback, but as with other issues, there are those who feel more due diligence needs to be done,” he said Thursday. Skeptics, he said, cite the cost and the proposed means of paying for the new structure, via bonds, but don’t question the need for a new facility.
The North Ogden City Council on Tuesday moved forward with plans to bond, approving a resolution setting out some of the preliminary parameters of the effort, still subject to additional discussion. Notably, the bond would not exceed $10.5 million per Tuesday’s action, though it could be for less when officials get more detailed cost estimates on building a new structure to house the North Ogden Police Department. If the city bonds for the full $10.5 million, the cost of paying the loan off, with interest, would be an estimated $13.02 million.
Per Tuesday’s action, the city will soon publish a formal notice of intent to seek bonding, when the 30-day period to petition to force the question to the ballot would begin. Berube and council members discussed the option to petition, meant as a means to allow the public to have say in such financial matters. “For those who would like to do that, there is that opportunity out there,” Berube said.
To succeed, petitioners would need to gather signatures from 20% of the registered voters in North Ogden, which would force the issue to the Nov. 2 ballot. There are around 12,600 registered voters in North Ogden, according to Berube, meaning petitioners would need to get signatures from more than 2,500 people to succeed. Then, if things got that far, the public would vote on whether the city should bond to help pay for a new police building.
The police department issue has been a point of discussion for years, particularly since last year, when a special committee that looked into the matter came forward with its findings.
If no petitioners step forward or they do and don’t get enough signatures, City Council moves to issue bonds to help with financing could move forward. According to the tentative timeline put forward Tuesday, subject to issuance of the public notice of the intent to seek bonding, a public hearing on the question would be held on June 22 and petitioners would have until July 6 to gather signatures. Presuming no petition effort, next steps after July 6 would be pinpointing cost estimates for the new police building before seeking bond funds.
The city plans to pitch in around $2 million in funds to keep the bonding amount down. If the estimated cost comes in at $8 million, City Attorney Jon Call said, the city would bond for $6 million.
Though bonding could require a property tax hike to cover the extra cost of paying back the funds in the years to come, Berube said city officials are trying to tweak the 2021-2022 budget to prevent such a scenario. Numbers crunchers are “close” to crafting a spending plan that wouldn’t require a tax increase, though he said there still may be a need for a “minimal tax increase.”
Police officials and their backers say the current police department building at 515 E. 2600 North is too small and outdated. The building also houses the North Ogden Justice Court. Their plans call for construction of a new, larger facility on space adjacent to the existing structure.