Elizabethtown signs loan agreement for $1.6 million to begin Phase II of downtown revitalization

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — Phase Two of the Elizabethtown Downtown Revitalization project is set to begin, after town staff signed a loan agreement last week.

At a Town Council work session, USDA loan specialist Larry Sampson appeared before the board to go over the details. The $1.6 million dollar loan from USDA’s Rural Development Program stipulates the following:

— 40 years at 3.25 percent interest.

— It will not exceed $1,611,000.

— The first payment will be due one year after the close of the loan, which will occur when the project is complete.The loan is maxed $1.6 million, but the town isn’t tied to borrowing that amount, just the final cost of the project.

— The loan will be billed annually.

— The town must monthly contribute to an assurance account 10 percent of the loan amount, to be used to make payments in an emergency.

“One thing I would advise is that you be very, very specific when you bid this project out,” Sampson offered. “The less specific you are, the more likely that subcontractors can be hired who don’t meet the qualifications of the loan.”

“What happens if we can’t do it for $1.6 million?” asked Councilman Howell Clark.

Sampson informed the board the $1.6 million includes a 10 percent contingency. When another council member pressed the issue of going over the loan amount, Town Manager Eddie Madden reminded them the project is expected to cost $1.5 million, a figure that also includes contingency.

“To my knowledge, we’ve not had a project that exceeded the contingency,” commented Madden.

Council members approved entering into the loan agreement, and Mayor Sylvia Campbell signed the paperwork to get the project moving forward.

Phase II will involve much of the same work as the first phase of the rehabilitation project. Duke Power lines, cable, and telephone lines will be buried from Pine Street (First Citizens Bank) to Gillespie Drive (Domino’s). All the poles that currently support the aerial lines will be removed and the concrete sidewalks repaired. New landscaping and street lights commensurate with, but not identical to, the lighting downtown that was installed in Phase I, will round out the project.

The lighting was an issue at the budget planning retreat in February, when staff and the Town Council first learned about the plans and projections for Phase II. Mayor Campbell voiced a concern about the new lights, saying the ones from Phase I were not as bright as had been hoped. A W.K. Dixon representative assured the Council the advancements in lighting since Phase I meant “more bang for the buck” this time around.

Elizabethtown Chief Finance Officer Jay Leatherman said now that the loan has been signed, the next step is to obtain interim financing, after which the town can begin the bidding process.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@s24515.p831.sites.pressdns.com.



Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal