The Southside Economic Development Committee wants the state to include over $500,000 in next year’s state Capital Outlay Bill to help repair its facilities and grounds.
During the Monday meeting of the SEDD Board of Commissioners at its Arizona Street headquarters, the SEDD board heard a report that State Senator Francis Thompson has given his written pledge of support to ask the state to grant the funds to the group.
Charles Theus, SEDD Executive Director, said Thompson pledged to get the request included in the state’s 2018 Capital Outlay Bill. He said Rep. Katrina Jackson pledged her support, but Rep. Marcus Hunter was not on board yet. He said the Arizona Street building needs roof repairs, parking lot improvements and other costs.
He said although the two percent hotel tax has passed, the SEDD does not want to use that resource just to repair its building.
He said Thompson made that pledge before he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. He asked the board to pray for Thompson’s recovery.
Theus said he has met with Mayor Jamie Mayo to discuss the authorization of a “TIF” on Renwick Street, Winnsboro Road and South Second Street.
A “Tif” (Tax increment financing) is an area within the SEDD that is targeted for redevelopment. If approved, the undedicated sales and property tax increases in the TIF can be redirected to SEDD for the purpose of redeveloping the neighborhood economically.
Theus told the board that Mayor Mayo has not committed to the TIF idea, but it is a major funding mechanism of the SEDD legislation.
In other business, the commissioners debated whether to hire a local attorney or Ernest Johnson, a Baton Rouge attorney who is the head of the state NAACP. Commission President Gladys Smith wants to use a Monroe attorney for SEDD’s legal work but others led by commissioner Augusta Turner wants to keep using Turner.
Theus said its present attorney has not sent a bill, and while he has not said anything officially, Theus thinks he has hopes of becoming the bonding for the SEDD when it sells its bonds next year. However, the present attorney’s capacity to serve as a bonding attorney was questioned by some commissioners. A bonding attorney gets a 2 percent commission for handling the district’s bonds or between $80,000 and $100,000.
The commissioners also:
–Discussed the urgency of picking up the signs from the recent tax campaign. Theus told the group that he had been contacted by Greg Smith from the city’s beautification department about clearing the signs or face a $50 a day fine from the city.
–Discussed but reached no clear understanding of its relationship with the city. The state law requires the city to hold SEDD funds and disburse them at the direction of the SEDD Board of commissioners. However commissioners are concerned that the city is imposing its management policy on the board. Commissioner Turner said she was told that before the city would pay an invoice of $250 that the board would have to verify that it had three bids for the purchase. Theus and several commissioners disagreed with that interpretation. He said while the city holds its funds, the SEDD is not required to follow city policies, but its own.
–Discussed an offer from a Texas Avenue property owner who wants to donate several pieces of property to the SEDD on condition that SEDD develop it into a park. The idea of stipulating the use for a donated property was frowned on by board members.
–Theus reported that he has received two proposals from local companies to build and maintain a website for the SEDD. He said a firm named “DIRM” and another named “Octagon” have submitted proposals. He is seeking another. He wants the website to be similar to that of the city’s to include minutes of the SEDD meetings, questions and answers and photos of the SEDD Board of Commissioners.
–Announced that the official canvass of the November tax election will be held on December 11. Some commissioners questioned whether the election would be challenged as predicted by Rep. Marcus Hunter, but Theus responded “I double dog dare them to challenge it.” Hunter predicted that the election may be challenged because it was only approved by Southside voters instead of the entire Monroe community as stipulated in the legislation.
–Theus announced that businessman Adrian Fisher paid for a Thank You ad that will appear in local papers this week, thanking voters for approving the hotel tax.