By Sean Rice
It appears Celina will be purchasing a 7-acre tract of land west of Deford Street to expand the city electric department.
Celina City council members finalized an eminent domain ordinance Monday night, stating the city will buy the land from Heffner Investments for $180,000.
Council members have not discussed details of the purchase in public for more than a year, partly because a former tenant of the property is entangled in a lawsuit against the owner.
Celina resident Steve Piper approached the council in mid-2003 stating he has first option to purchase the land. Afterwards Piper filed suit against Heffner Investments for signing a purchase agreement with Celina.
On Monday, council members discussed the purchase in a 30-minute executive session prior to the regular meeting. The finalized ordinance will be submitted to the presiding judge in the case, council member Rick Bachelor said.
In another matter, council members moved on an ordinance increasing tap-in fees for the city water system. The law would increase the fees for connecting to a city water line; to $700 for a residential tap up to3ò4 inch, and to at least $800 for taps larger than3ò4 inch. The current fees are $625 and $750 respectively. Council members will have one more reading before the ordinance is put into effect.
Council members passed an emergency ordinance to create a "cafeteria plan" under the rules of the Internal Revenue Service. City employees are required this year to begin paying for a portion of their health care insurance, and the cafeteria plan allows employees to reduce their total gross income on tax documents.
The city may have slightly more money laying around at the end of the year, due to a recent refinancing of city debt. Katie O'Conner, an adviser from underwriter Seasongood & Mayer, told officials Monday she recommends refinancing nearly $3 million in debt on the water and sewer departments, left over from improvement projects from 1993 and 1994.
O'Conner recently facilitated a refinancing of approximately $3 million in outstanding debt from the electric department. She will be taking to Celina Auditor Pat Smith on further refinancing.
"You did a really good job doing what you did, taking the interest rate risk out of the question," said O'Conner.