Mayor Jamie Mayo's news conference 8 July 2019.jpg

The city of Monroe plans to incur up to $3 million in bonded indebtedness on behalf of the Tower Drive-Armand Street Economic Development District though city officials have no projects on which to spend the money.

Mayor Jamie Mayo’s administration discussed the proposed debt measures during a news conference on Monday at Monroe City Hall.

When asked about whether the city had any projects on tap in the Tower-Armand district or planned any specific expenditures for the money, city officials could not point to anything other than a possible traffic study costing some $500,000 or other possible infrastructure needs.

Meanwhile, the city plans to incur up to $13 million in bonded indebtedness on behalf of the Interstate 20 Economic Development District to pay for several new and ongoing projects in the area around Pecanland Mall.

The Tower-Armand district and the I-20 district are tax increment finance, or TIF, districts. Each district is governed by a board of directors. The city of Monroe incurs debt on behalf of each district, and the money is spent at the discretion of each district’s board. The debt is secured by sales tax revenues generated within each district.

“This is all new money,” said Stacey Rowell, the city’s director of administration. “One of the reasons we are going out for bonds is because we cannot undertake pay-as-you-go, or cash, projects in these districts. The sales taxes generated in these districts can only be used to pay down debt.”

The Tower-Armand and I-20 districts were set to expire soon, but recent legislation allowed for the extension of the districts’ life until the end of 2033.

City documents detailing projects in the I-20 district show numerous roadway and drainage projects that have been completed in the district, like the I-20 frontage roads on each side of the interstate.

A number of other projects in the I-20 district have not yet turned dirt because of lack of funds.

“This will let us do a lot more in this area to complete local projects with local dollars,” said Otis Chisley, president of the I-20 board.

There were no city documents available Monday that showed how the $3 million would be spent in the Tower-Armand district.

City engineer Kim Golden said she would recommend the Tower-Armand board commission a traffic study because traffic signalization could be needed at some areas. Golden said the cost of the potential traffic study could cost some $200,000 to $500,000.

When asked about specific projects on which the proposed $3 million could be spent, Golden referred to a possible project near the University of Louisiana-Monroe pharmacy school.

“So specifically, if there was a need for adjacent infrastructure adjacent to the pharmacy school, that could be a prospect,” Golden said.

When asked a second time whether there were any specific projects in the Tower-Armand district, Golden said, “I’m not aware of any.”

After The Ouachita Citizen’s inquiries, Mayo and his press relations officer, Rod Washington, swept in to clarify that the issuance of $3 million in debt would help the city “get ready so you’ll be ready” if a project materialized.

“So a lot of good things going on in our city,” Mayo said.

The debt measure was presented to the Monroe City Council Tuesday night. The state Bond Commission must approve any issuance of bonded indebtedness.

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