The city of Midway Monday took the first step toward financing a $1 million city hall complex it hopes to see completed in 2017.
The city council voted unanimously to ask the Liberty County Public Facilities Authority to issue bonds to pay for the complex to be built on three acres of city property near the intersection of Islands Highway and Bill Carter Road. The city hopes to use proceeds from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved last month to repay the facilities authority.
Midway’s architect, Judson Bryant, explained that even with the SPLOST revenue, Midway will be on a "very, very tight budget" to pay for the new complex. He said the previous sales tax had produced only 80 percent of the revenue it was expected to raise. So Midway might receive only $800,000 of the $1 million estimate and would have to pay interest on the bonds and other possible costs up to almost $150,000 beyond the $1 million.
Bryant suggested that city department heads be asked to find money that could be put away to help fund the city hall project, but council members seemed not to favor this. Midway Finance Director Gwen Lowe said, "There is no room to squeeze out another dollar," from the proposed balanced 2017 draft budget she presented. Lowe recommended that Midway begin to levy an ad valorem tax.
"Property tax is the only way," she said.
Of Liberty County’s seven municipalities only Hinesville levies a property tax Allenhurst, Flemington, Gum Branch, Riceboro and Walthourville, like Midway, do not.
The council also heard from L. Scott Barnard, an architect, and Graylan Quarterman representing civil engineering firm EDT.
Quarterman said survey work was already under way and he hoped it would be completed by Christmas. Barnard displayed some drawings that he said were preliminary and conceptual only.
The drawings show a double-winged building with the two major city functions, city council and municipal court, "front and center." A large room intended for council meetings and municipal court is right off the entrance lobby, as are accessible offices for the mayor and council members. Space for municipal court operations and staff are on the right, and administrative offices for the finance director and water department are on the left.
The police department and a sallyport are at the end of the court office wing and the water department’s bill-paying area is at the end of the administrative wing.
Midway officials had several questions which led architects to explain that the preliminary drawings included what they called placeholders; for example, the mayor’s office does not have to be where it is drawn now, but plans call for an office for the mayor.
They said the conceptual drawings allow estimate of cost for the project, including a mayor’s office, but does not lock in specific locations for the design elements.
Mayor Pro Tempore Levern Clancy said when customers come in the front door, "I don’t think they should see the mayor."
Clancy is considered a likely candidate for mayor when Dr. Clemontine Washington’s term ends next year. Washington is not eligible for re-election.
Council members asked about a drive-up window for bill payments and the architects said that could be added to the design.
Barnard told the council that his design was expandable and could include future retail stores of different sizes.
"City Hall will be like the anchor store in a mall," he said.
The council authorized Bryant to request proposals from general contractors interested in building the city hall complex.
He said he expects Midway will be able to let a contract for the project in February.