Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
Celina moves to renew Bryson debt for park land buy
By William Kincaid
CELINA - City council members on Monday night passed legislation to once again renew its debt on behalf of the Bryson Trust Fund for the purchase of two lakeshore-area properties to be turned into parkland.
But this year, the load will be considerably lighter.
Trust fund officers have agreed to make a $1.15 million down payment on the debt, reducing the amount the city must renew to $1.49 million. They also reached an agreement with city officials on how to develop the new lakeside park.
"Once we were able to come to consensus on this, the Bryson Trust wanted to start chipping away on (the debt). They wanted to give us a large down payment," mayor Jeff Hazel told councilors.
Moreover, trust officers have vowed to pay off the remaining debt within the next four years, Hazel added.
"It's just good to see that all parties have their opinions resolved, and it's just good to see the process moving forward," councilman Mark Fleck said.
Councilors suspended the three-public reading rule and unanimously approved the ordinance to issue and sell notes.
Officials intend to refinance $1.49 million with Second National Bank at an interest rate of 2.08 percent, the lowest of four submitted bids. In previous years the city issued one-year notes with the Mercer County Treasurer's Department.
"(Bryson officials) are paying the legal fees and the note-renewal fees," Hazel pointed out.
Officials in 2015 borrowed $2.64 million from Mercer County at an interest rate of 1.6 percent to help buy the former Versa Pak and the Mercelina Mobile Court. The total price was $2.2 million for the Mercelina land and $745,000 for the Larbus property. The city will convert the 8 acres into the Bryson Park District.
The city contributed $300,000 toward the acquisition and borrowed on behalf of the Bryson Trust Fund to finalize the deal while the The Bryson Trust Fund officers committed to paying 90 percent of the property purchase price. The private trust fund, managed by First Financial Bank, has a balance of more than $10 million, according to Hazel.
Trust officers contacted the state attorney general for opinions on how to reimburse the city and if they could use the fund's principal. Trust officer Carolyn Pancake previously told the newspaper the attorney general had opined trustees could use some of the principal.
In the meantime, the city is proceeding with a conceptual park design, and Hazel has promised some work will happen this year.
Mercer County Probate Court Judge Mary Pat Zitter in December approved a petition outlining protections to be enforced on the city's 8 acres of land.
Zitter's ruling capped a yearlong series of negotiations between the two sides.
The six protections state how the park can be developed. Any and all improvements, additions, modifications, construction or enhancement on the land that the fund will help purchase must be pre-approved by trust fund officers and the probate court.
Not all of the land is under the trust's control, notably the hot water hole and parking lot.
The Harley Jones Rotary Memorial Amphitheater likely will be a cornerstone of the new parkland, Hazel has said. The city received $1.2 million in state capital dollars to construct it. An exact location has not been chosen, but Hazel has speculated that an amphitheater capable of holding at least 500 people would be built somewhere in the park.
Also, many individuals and entities are interested in donating to support a splash pad, fit trails, benches and other park features, Hazel said.