Home City Staff BOC: USDA timeline, $1.89 tax rate held, interim city attorney, new LSB...

BOC: USDA timeline, $1.89 tax rate held, interim city attorney, new LSB member & CAB members selected

The BOC (Board of Commissioners) met in a regular meeting last night (7.11.19) at City Hall, reviewing 18 resolutions and four reports.

Link to agenda: https://tn-lakeland.civicplus.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/856

Link to Livestream: https://livestream.com/lakeland/events/8746568

In his monthly report, Shane Horn, city manager, updated commissioners on a USDA $56 million loan which is to finance the first high school in Lakeland. A commitment letter from USDA to approve the loan is expected Aug. 2nd.

Application for a 40-year USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Loan Funds was approved May 28th by the BOC and is to fund a $40 million high school as well as refinance the CON (Capital Outlay Note) loan (about $16 million) on the two-year-old middle school. (Lakeland Middle Preparatory School.)

Mr. Horn said the application was submitted June 10th and by June 19th A2H had submitted a required environmental report which includes a 30-day public comment period from stakeholders. That period ends July 18th.

Today (7.12.19) Renaissance Group submits the preliminary architectural report. These are the big items, said Mr. Horn.  On July 19th, the final financial feasibility analysis is due with the final USDA rural development review July 22-26.  Mr. Horn said the City expects to receive a commitment letter about the USDA loan Aug. 2nd.

Audience at the Thursday night BOC

Property tax rate – Staying at $1.89 for now

Although approval is expected on the USDA loan which requires little if any property tax increase to Lakeland citizens, the BOC parallel-approved a 12-year CON for $35 million which would raise taxes 64-cents to $1.89.

At the June 26th BOC meeting, a resolution to amend the May 28th – approved 2019-20 tax rate back to the current $1.25 tax rate was tabled.  With no commitment of the USDA loan approval, three of the five commissioners were unwilling to give up the CON option on financing a high school which goes hand-in-hand with the 64-cent tax increase.

The resolution was brought to the floor again last night as agenda item #18, but was defeated in a 3-2 vote.

Commissioners had believed the drop dead date to submit a tax rate to Shelby County (SC) was Oct. 1st, but learned last month the timeframe was July 15th.   Regina Morrison Newman, SC Trustee, told commissioners June 26th that her office must have the City tax rate no later than July 15th to be loaded into the Shelby County system.  To make any changes after that date, she said, would require manual adjustments to 5,600 parcels.  And the cost could be $50,000 conservatively to the City.

BOC at Thursday night meeting

Because the USDA commitment is not expected until Aug. 2nd, considerably past July 15th, the City already faces an expense to manually redo the tax rate.  Commissioner Richard Gonzales Jr. and Mayor Mike Cunningham reintroduced the resolution, noting the sooner the tax rate was lowered, the better for citizens, especially those whose mortgage escrow funds will be impacted by the new tax rate.

Mr. Horn explained he asked the Trustee’s office to hold on printing and mailing Lakeland tax bills. But the process of entering $1.89 tax rate into the County system started Wednesday. Commissioner Michele Dial said the deed was done and the tax rate has been entered by the County, so changes will have to be made manually to the tax rate once firm confirmation on the USDA loan is received. “There is no harm in delaying this a little longer,” she said.

Commissioner Wesley Wright said the tax rate will still be rectified.  “This is a soap opera up here sometimes,” he said.  When we know for sure the USDA is a done deal, we will get the tax rate rectified, he said.   “It’s a temporary inconvenience.  We’re not ruining peoples’ lives. This tax increase will not sink your battleship.”

Interim City Attorney

Will Patterson, attorney at Wiseman Bray PLLC, was selected as interim city attorney in a 3-2 vote, replacing Mike Marshall with Evans Petree PC who was terminated June 26th after about four months on the job.

Will Patterson

Mr. Marshall replaced Chris Patterson (brother of Will Patterson) who resigned in January after serving the City since 2013.  In the same June meeting, Mr. Will Patterson was appointed to provide legal services to the IDB (Industrial Development Board) in a short-term supporting role to Al Bright. His approval came through a 3-0-2 vote.

Mayor Cunningham presented a resolution to hire Kim Koratsky as City Attorney but the resolution was defeated in a 2 Yes/3 No vote.

Mr. Will Patterson is a 2012 graduate of the Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law and was a law clerk for Judge Robert S. Weiss, Shelby County Circuit Court. His practice focuses in the areas of tort litigation; business and commercial litigation; advising small and closely held businesses; personal injury; and construction litigation and lien disputes.

New member to LSB

Michelle Childs was appointed to the Lakeland School Board (LSB) last night, replacing Teresa Henry who resigned July 1st after moving from Lakeland. Mrs. Childs is the second appointment to the LSB this summer.  Jeremy Burnett was sworn in to the School Board July 1st replacing Geoff Hicks who also moved from Lakeland.

Michelle Childs

Mrs. Childs has been a Lakeland resident since 2008 and had children at LES from 2011-16. Her son and daughter will be at LMPS this fall in 5th and 8th grades.

She is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked with students about 20 years, primarily as a social worker at Youth Villages for 16 years.

Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) members selected

Eight members were selected for two-year-terms to the newly formed Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), a group advocated by Commissioner Dial to expose citizens to the inner-workings of City government.  The kick-off event for the group will be in September and they will meet quarterly.

The City was divided into eight districts and a representative was chosen to represent each.  The representatives will not only learn about their government, but will also bring their neighborhood issues to City Hall.

Those selected are Michael Green, Kimberly Rossie, Jason Valentine, Ben Ledsinger, Jonathan Spiceland, Sally Nickle, Thomas Davis and Ken Glatzer.

From left, Michael Green, Jonathan Spiceland, Ben Ledsinger, Commissioner Michele Dial, Kimberly Rossie and Thomas Davis

The Lake District (TLD) – Development contract resolution deferred

A back-and-forth between commissioners and the developer failed to win approval for a development contract for Phase 1 of the 160+ acre mixed-use community to be built at I-40 and Canada Road in Lakeland.

Jim Atkinson with A2H and Yehuda Netanel, owner and developer of the project, addressed the BOC about amending the resolution for $257,722 in development fees and $726,445 security for public and private improvements. Mr. Netanel began by saying there will be a rendering of Phase 1 next week and despite all the spring rain, the grading is about done. He said he hoped to start the infrastructure in 10 days with construction permitting in September.

Mr. Atkinson said Mr. Netanel would like to pay the development fees now and defer the security until Oct. 31st.

Commissioner Gonzales countered by saying the City is tired of Mr. Netanel’s delays and people are fed up.  He did note there is work on the project site.

Mr. Netanel said there is a $10 million investment underway. “That is a $10 million cloud of dust.” Of the security, Mr. Netanel said the project would not connect to City services without the security. “Can we do anything right?” he questioned.

The counter continued with Commissioner Gonzales saying the project had been dragging on three years, not to mention the TIF money (Tax Increment Financing) approved for TLD.  Mr. Netanel said that is not the City’s money.

Commissioner Wright suggested Commissioner Gonzales understand the dynamic which is private industry.  If we are hostile, he said, they will choose another city.  “I’m tired of this negativity.  The Lake District is not just some strip mall.  It is beyond that.”

Vice Mayor Josh Roman agreed Mr. Netanel has asked for concessions. He noted that even though Mr. Netanel might not connect to City services before the security, the City is still heavily invested. The Mayor agreed, saying the five on the Board have to be careful in proceedings.  “Exceptions on things set precedence here and others follow.”

Commissioners broke for an executive session with Interim Attorney Patterson. Upon reconvening, the Vice Mayor said the Attorney recommended the resolution be taken up at the next meeting.  In a 5-0 vote, the resolution was deferred to the next BOC meeting.

And the rest of the meeting

  • Kyle Wright, finance and human resources director, gave the June treasurer’s report noting the general fund has $8.9 million and tax collections for the general fund modestly exceeded expectations. He said he saw nothing unusual.
  • Lt. Natalie Hillman with the Shelby County Sheriff’s office said there was 30 crimes in the month of June for Lakeland with nine thefts from motor vehicles and three thefts from buildings. Weapons were among the items stolen, she said.
  • Commissioner Dial reported on the July meeting of the Parks and Recreation/Natural Resources Advisory Board. Dick’s sporting goods is donating $500 in cash, sports equipment to the rec programs (footballs for this calendar year) and discount days to Lakeland families on select days.  Sprouts is donating $5,000 to be the headline sponsor of the LAMP concerts, along with three $25 gift cards at each show, samples and coupons.  For the Athletic Complex the Parks and Recreation Department is still waiting to hear from the State to be awarded the contract. It’s possible notification will come around mid-August. From there the project moves to design and how to lay out the Complex. She said the Board is still sticking with the original grant proposal of two fields and parking.
  • Resolution #6 was approval of equipment to help with leaf collections in the season and was approved unanimously.
  • Resolutions #7 through #14 were approved with #16 amended and then approved. Resolution #15 was deferred.
  • Terrance Fluker, partnership specialist with the Philadelphia regional Census Center, talked about the 2020 Census, saying there are three takeaways: Secure, Easy and Important. The form can be completed with pen and paper, over the phone or online, he said. The 2010 count for Lakeland was 12,430 and the 2018 estimate was 12,617, a 1.6% increase.   The next steps, he said, are marketing and making sure all residents are counted.  And, he added, the Census Bureau is hiring:  5,000 In Shelby County.

… Photos, videos by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents