Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee leads a crowd last Thursday for National Day of Prayer. The Ridgeland High School Choir gave a choral performance and four local pastors prayed over the nation, military, state and local government, and community.
Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee leads a crowd last Thursday for National Day of Prayer. The Ridgeland High School Choir gave a choral performance and four local pastors prayed over the nation, military, state and local government, and community.
RIDGELAND — The city will borrow up to $20 million for unspecified capital projects, including a proposed city center project at School Street and U.S. 51 that could include a new city hall.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Tuesday unanimously accepted a no-protest resolution for the 2019 General Obligation bonds not to exceed $19,960,000 after no public objections were filed.

Residents had until Tuesday at 6 p.m. to submit public comments to the City Clerk’s Office. 

The item passed with little discussion or fanfare. No one was present to make a public comment for or against the bond issue.

City Clerk Paula Tierce has said the city has a bond capacity just under $20 million, although with a tax hike the city could set the limit as high as $47 million.

An intent resolution issued in March said that the opposition would have to have about 1,500 people or 10 percent of the electorate to trigger any action.

Though the city has not officially announced its intent to earmark any monies, Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith and Mayor Gene McGee have hinted at projects they are lobbying for following the full funding and near completion of several large transportation projects, including the recent opening of Colony Park Boulevard, a major east-west artery connecting I-55 to Old Canton Road, U.S. 51 and the Township and the ongoing Lake Harbour Extension project.

Both Smith and McGee have suggested city officials would like to see at least a portion of these funds to go toward the long-proposed city center project. Renderings were first unveiled for the long-discussed project in 2014. 

McGee said in April that they would like to approve something as early as the second meeting of this month to “take advantage of the construction season” and move on dirt work as soon as possible.

City officials heard a presentation from Benchmark Construction owner David Marsh Monday evening concerning preliminary designs of the city center project. They gave aldermen a current estimate of $15.9 million.

The city engaged with Benchmark in April to provide construction management services.

Marsh said that they are using 3-D modeling to carefully go over the current plans and drawings to make sure there are no conflicts or problems. Their scrutiny will hopefully prevent change orders when the project breaks ground, they said.

“Our job is to represent y’all during the course of construction. We have our blinders on for that,” Marsh said. “We are here to make sure all of the pieces of the puzzle fit.”

He said that the mechanical plans are largely complete, though their team is still smoothing over some issues.

Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Holder, who has been tapped for his expertise as a contractor to assist the Mayor in talks and negotiations with Benchmark, said that he was impressed by their work and attention to detail.

“Their 3-D modeling of everything is huge. This is the first time I have seen anything quite like that and I think they are doing a great job,” Holder said.

The designs were based on Waggoner Engineering drawings the city received in 2014 and has used in the past to promote the project. 

The 2014 drawings showed an ambitious look at what the project could include, including a Town Hall building, a museum, arts center, and retail/office space totaling 11 structures in all.

Currently, the city plans to move ahead on the new town hall building and a proposed Veterans Garden. The garden will be paid for by private donations managed by members of the Madison County Veterans Service and a board that includes community Development Director Alan Hart and Public Works Director Mike McCollum.

The Veterans Memory Park in Ridgeland is projected to cost $122,000 and was spearheaded by the late Dr. Tom Logue. Plans were approved by the city in April of 2017.

The park will include benches and plaques commemorating the six branches of the military. The park also features a central walkway, the Walk of Heroes and a flagpole. The centerpiece would be a seven-foot bell tower.

“Most cities have a statue or monument that you drive by and that’s fine, but we wanted something you come to and be a part of,” Logue said at the time. “The bell will work and we want people to be able to go and ring that bell and say a fallen veteran’s name for that moment that veteran will live again.”

“The city is already into Waggoner Engineering for the design work they have done with the city. The bill is expected to come in at $695,000 for design phase services, special services and services related to the bidding, contracting and construction phase.

“This building is part of the city’s future. Moving forward it is exciting and fulfilling to see these projects come to fruition. We have this and the Lake Harbour extension project, to name a few, and the completion of those will be a win-win for everybody. These are projects we have wanted for a long time,” McGee said in April.

In addition to the town center project, city officials could use the money to pursue a proposed overhaul of city-owned baseball fields or the Hite B. Wolcott parking lot project axed from the fiscal year 2019 budget.

City Parks Director Chris Chance presented a bid for $1,395,593 to the board for turf and drainage renovations to Freedom Ridge Park from Stewart Environmental Monday evening.

“You were right when you said this should come in at just under $1.4 million,” Heard said.

The item was unanimously approved on the consent agenda. Chance said he wants these improvements to entice more tournaments to the city.

At the time of budget talks last July, the park parking lot project was estimated at around $700,000. The project was initially slated to start as early as late 2018 and had $200,000 earmarked in the FY 2018 budget.

The combined estimated total for the three projects is well within the full capacity of the bonds to be issued at $18,080,593.

Ridgeland officials last issued bonds in December of 2015 in the amount of $11.9 million.

The money was initially slated  to alter School Street and construct an entrance where Rice Road connects to U.S. 51 for the City Center Project.

Officials suggested at the time that the money could be used for a variety of other infrastructure projects including parking at the site, roads or “other Public Works priorities.”

McGee said Tuesday that the bond money ended up going toward the purchasing of right-of-way for some of the city’s larger capital projects and some road and sewer improvements and repairs.

“The bond issue was for more than the City Center and Rice Road, although design for the City Hall is included,” McGee said in an email. 

He said that other projects included, “Colony Park Blvd Right of Way purchase as well as the cost of moving utilities. Lake Harbour Extension Right of Way Purchase as well as the cost of moving utilities and engineer design cost. East Lake Harbour Overlay Project. Jackson Street Multi-Use Trail and Sunnybrook Road Water, Sewer and Road improvements.”