Downtown projects on agenda for special CIty Council meeting on Monday

LACONIA — The City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber, when it will once again consider authorizing a borrowing to undertake a series of projects recommended by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Advisory Board. The improvements would to be funded by borrowing $1,350,000.

In August, the council approved spending $275,000 to improve the gateway to downtown at the Main Street Bridge, in order to ensure that the improvements were incorporated into the design for the reconstruction of the bridge. In addition to the so-called Gateway Plaza, the board recommended investing $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk at the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the Walgreen's property, $200,000 to create a pocket park where Water Street joins Pleasant Street and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station up to the Church Street bridge. Altogether the estimated cost of the projects totaled $1,550,000.

However, the council withheld its approval of the remaining projects, choosing instead to refer the recommendations to its Finance and Public Works committees. After further review the pocket park at at the junction of Water Street and Pleasant Street was struck from the list while the remaining projects were returned to the council for its approval. Meanwhile, in October the council approved spending $35,000 to extend a ten-inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to restaurant. The net effect of shelving the pocket park and adding the water main was to reduce the amount of the borrowing to $1,337,800.

The projects would be funded by borrowing $1,350,000 against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of 4 percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. When the debt is retired, assuming no further borrowing, the TIF fund would be left with a balance of $2,811,654. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.
The Main Street Initiative, together with representatives of the Belknap Ecomnomic Development Council and WOW Trail, are expected to offer their opinions on the proposed projects before the council itself begins deliberation.