No new school

Published 11:20 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

A project to replace the deteriorating Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools will be deferred for one year, the City Council decided Wednesday.

The Council also voted to authorize the city manager to apply for school construction bonds — authorized by the federal government under last year’s economic stimulus package — to help raise the money to build the school.

Councilman Jeffrey Gardy suggested deferring the construction and pursuing the possibility of receiving the bonds.

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“It certainly would be of help not to have to go to the bond market next year,” said city budget officer Anne Seward.

The federal money is available for construction, rehabilitation or repair of public school facilities, including the acquisition of land on which a public school is to be constructed. All of the money must be spent within three years of its award. The bonds have a 14- to 17-year repayment period with flexible terms, Seward said.

The interest on the bonds is generally less than 1 percent, which would generate a significant cost savings over the normal 4 percent to 5 percent that other bonds require. In addition, the city could wind up paying less than initially borrowed, because payments would be held in an account that generates interest before paying on the loan, Seward said.

The move allows the city to put off $17.75 million in capital investments — $16 million for the school and $1.75 million for a joint-use recreational facility that would be attached to it. The city already funded about $1.5 million for land acquisition for the school.

After voting to apply for the stimulus bonds, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the capital improvements plan for the next 10 years. Only the first year of the plan will be considered in this year’s budget process, however.

It includes $8.5 million for public buildings and facilities, including airport improvements and an operations maintenance facility; $4.58 million for the fire department to buy fire engines, trucks and an ambulance, to construct an addition to the Lake Kilby fire station and to begin land acquisition for a Nansemond Parkway fire station; $1.17 million for channel dredging and intersection construction; $811,400 for neighborhood and village improvements; and $535,000 for parks and recreation maintenance and improvements to the athletic fields at the John Yeates recreation facility.