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City Council members gave North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith the go-ahead Monday evening to work with a bond counsel and underwriter to prepare a bond issuance to cover an expected $10 million construction overrun on a new police and courts building.

The 8-0 vote authorizes the mayor to hire Stephens Inc. as bond underwriter and Friday, Eldredge & Clark law firm as bond counsel to prepare potential financing options.

As he announced on Friday, Smith postponed any discussion on a separate $4 million bond issue for improvements at the North Little Rock Municipal Airport, 8200 Remount Road. The two bond proposals had been combined originally.

There's no specific timeline on when the bonds for the police and courts building would be issued. The bond issue will also need further City Council approval before bonds can be sold. City Finance Director Karen Scott said last week it would be at least 90 days before a bond issue would happen.

The city won't need the construction funds for some time. The $30 million complex will be in the 2600-2700 block of Poplar Street, where the North Little Rock School District Administration building and the Arkansas National Guard's Fisher Armory are now. All parties agreed last year on a land swap and a $500,000 payment by the city to acquire the sites.

Both the school administration building and the armory still need to be demolished, and architectural plans aren't even completed for the police and courts building.

"Everything we're going to do will come back to you," Smith told the City Council. "We don't need to borrow money right now. It may be that we don't need the money until the spring of next year.

"We'll sit down with bond counsel to see how do we do this if we don't need the money right now. At least they can tell us if bonds are saleable."

The building's construction is to receive $20 million over a five-year period from a temporary, one-half percent city sales tax that took effect Jan. 1, 2018. The tax was part of a 1 percent total tax package that earmarked the other one-half percent as a permanent revenue source for the city's general fund.

Council members approved in December the hiring of an architectural firm to design the new building at a total project cost of $30 million.

The one-half percent sales tax is projected to raise $40 million over its five-year term. Besides $20 million dedicated for the police and courts building, the tax package is to provide $10 million for new and renovated fire stations and $10 million for streets and drainage improvements.

Smith said last week that he would delay maybe a month asking the City Council for a bond issue involving improvements at the city's airport. Some council members have asked for more detailed plans on what improvements would be made and a specific breakdown on all costs, Smith said.

The airport bond package would upgrade the airport to have a modern aviation center that supporters have said would help North Little Rock companies better attract clients to do business in the city.

The North Little Rock Municipal Airport opened in 1960. It has four runways that accommodate 56,000 takeoffs and landings annually, according to airport figures.

Metro on 01/15/2019

Print Headline: North Little Rock will pursue bonds for new police, courts building

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