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More security for Evergreen, debt on agenda at City Council

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After vandals defaced tombstones in Evergreen Cemetery on Greenland Drive last week, Murfreesboro City Council is considering installing additional security measures.

Evergreen Cemetery Chairman Jim Roberts has requested the installation of security lighting to deter future vandals from damaging the historic city cemetery.

City Manager Rob Lyons agreed and suggestion using funds set aside to repave the pathways and remove dangerous trees from the graveyard this fall and winter.

“I concur with Mr. Roberts and Mr. Huddleston that security lighting is needed at the cemetery,” Lyons said. “Since the originally requested work is expected to be under budget, I recommend that we use some of the saving to install security lighting.”

The lights are expected to cost around $63,000.

•••

Murfreesboro is also looking at diversifying its portfolio by refinancing more than a third of its outstanding debt.

For years, Murfreesboro has used the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund to finance large capital projects. The TMBF offers low variable-rate lines of credit to Tennessee cities and counties.

“While it is still an excellent option for financing city projects, I believe that the city should diversify its debt portfolio so that it also includes fixed-rate debt,” Lyons said.

Of the city’s $201,106,937 in outstanding variable-rate debt, Lyons would like to refinance $72.5 million to fixed rate.

Lyons said the main reasons for refinancing the debt are a downgrade in one of the debt holder’s long-term rating and the inherently risky nature of variable-rate bonds.

Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded SunTrust debt rating in April. The downgrade made the variable rate jumped to 3.25 percent, required monthly payments and the $25.89 million must be paid off in five years.

“As a result, all of the $25.89 million in SunTrust debt needs to be refinanced,” Lyons said.

Also the current economic climate has added instability to the variable-rate credit market.

“However, as we saw last fall, rates can spike up (it went up to 9.25 percent for a day although it averaged 4.19 for the month,” Lyons said.

•••

The city will also consider awarding a contract to build the new visitors center to Southland Constuctors of Brentwood.

The building will be three floors, with a visitors’ center and convention bureau on the first floor, and Chamber of Commerce offices, MTSU’s Small Business Development Center and expansion space on the second and third floors.

The center cost an estimated $5.1 million, paid for in part by a $3.3 million Tennessee Department of Transportation grant to the city and a $2 million grant for the Chamber portion.

•••

Other council business:
• Consider for passage on second reading an ordinance to amend an area of Winslow Park at Berkshire Subdivision zoned PRD located along Blackman Road.

• Consider for passage on second reading an ordinance to rezone an area located along Medical Center Parkway to Highway Commercial (CH) District.

• Consider for passage on second reading an ordinance to amend the zoning code, pertaining to parking, queuing, and loading.

• Consider for passage on second reading an ordinance to annex an area located along West Thompson Lane.

• Consider scheduling public hearings to consider rezoning approximately 6.78 acres along St. Andrews Drive from RS-15 to PCD and amendments to Zoning Ordinance with regards to Planned Signage (PS) Overlay District program book for The Avenues of Murfreesboro for approximately 100 acres along Medical Center Parkway.
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Chamber of Commerce, City, Debt, Economy, Evergreen Cemetery, Jim Roberts, MTSU, Rob Lyons, Small Business Development Center, Southland Constuctors, SunTrust, Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund, Visitors Center
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Members Opinions:
August 13, 2009 at 7:37am
"Lyons would like to refinance $72.5 million to fixed rate."
This number does not include the $43.8 million debt (variable rate notes) of the Water & Sewer Dept. and will probably result in another hike in water/dewer rates.
August 13, 2009 at 8:47am
What is W&S rates in comparison to other cities the size of Murfreesboro, and with the growth still trying to catch up?
August 13, 2009 at 11:31am
Because the sewer lines are not all in the city but to development outside the city it is not an apples to apples comparison. M'boro has seperate rates for water and sewer service which makes the water rate appear low when compared to a city that lumps the two together.
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