Ogden City Council approves $2M to move Marshall White Center rebuild forward
Image supplied, Ogden City Council
OGDEN — In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Ogden City Council adopted an amendment to the fiscal year 2022 budget to transfer $2 million from the city’s general fund balance to the Capital Improvement Fund to aid with expenses for a revitalized Marshall White Center.
With the overall build projected to cost $23 million, an estimated $1.5 million was needed to cover architectural design and construction drawings.
According to Ogden City Comptroller Lisa Stout, the city does not yet definitively know how much money will be needed or where specifically all the funds are going to come from.
That said, the city administration proposed a potential funding source breakdown with $5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, $1.5 million in donations, a $1.5 million RAMP grant and $15 million in bond proceeds.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Ogden resident and former Planning Commissioner Angel Castillo offered alternatives to funding through bonds.
Image supplied, Ogden City Council
With numerous tax credits available, Castillo said there is little need for the city to incur debt issuance fees associated with bonds.
Castillo suggested the city consider New Markets Tax Credits enacted in 2000 to attract investment capital to low-income neighborhoods. The program offers investors such as banking institutions a tax credit for making equity investments in certified community development entities.
According to Castillo, entities purchase the credit and offer it as a loan with a 0% or below-market rate of interest. “I think we owe it to our citizens to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” she said.
Stout said she does not know if either New Markets Tax Credits or bonds are the best option. But when the city gets to a point of knowing exactly how much is needed to finance, she added, officials will look to the city’s financial consultant to find the best option.
At this time, the term bonds is strictly being used as a placeholder for additional financing, according to Stout. Having been approved for the $2 million in appropriated funds for design and construction drawings, the city will have a better idea of final costs and how to finance it, she said.
The city is committing $2 million to the project now knowing they are looking at a very expensive project, Stout said. Any money left from the appropriated $2 million is restricted for future construction costs.
“There is a lot of work to be done after this appropriation before we are even ready to put a shovel in the ground,” Stout said.
Some Ogden residents spoke in opposition of appropriating funds to the project Tuesday night, expressing concern that it seemed like an irresponsible financial decision not having all the parts and pieces aligned.
As with most federal funding, ARPA funds expire. Castillo said if the city does not take advantage of them, someone else will.
One Ogden resident said it would be best to put the project on hold given the country’s current financial climate.
“I don’t see anything getting any cheaper anytime soon,” Ogden NAACP President Betty Sawyer, articulating residents’ financial worries.
Following several community meetings, surveys and status updates by the administration as part of a joint resolution adopted in January by the council and Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell to invest in the center, a goal to begin construction on a new or renovated center was set to begin no later than April 2024.
The center was found to be outdated and not in conformity with current building code requirements based on a visual inspection by VCBO Architecture in 2021.