BROOKSVILLE — When it comes to spending, the county might squeeze every nickel until it screams, but the city of Brooksville squeezes every nickel until it howls for mercy.
Sam Bick of LDG Development ran into a brick wall of resistance Dec. 19 when he tried to get the city to grant $20,000 for a local government contribution for the application package for financing programs for the apartment complex the company wants to build in Brooksville.
The name of the complex would be the Apex, Bick said, because it would be at a high point in the city.
Council members seemed to think his request was the high point of effrontery.
The total cost of the apartment complex will be $65 million, and construction will cost $40 million. Even so, Bick added, costs and interest rates have been climbing and he said he didn’t rule out the possibility of coming back to the council for more money later.
“The financing is a critical part of that,” he said.
This might be the Christmas season, the council seemed to be saying to Bick, but they’re not Santa Claus when it comes to the taxpayers’ money.
County Planning Administrator Michelle Miller came to the podium and said that at its meeting the previous week, Hernando County had agreed to pay its $20,000 out of ARPA funds. City Manager Ron Snowberger said the city’s $20,000 is budgeted funds but council members Christa Tanner, David Bailey and Casey Thieryung seemed unhappy with the agenda item.
“I guess you don’t really need our $20,000 then,” Bailey said. “You want it.”
Tanner made that point, too.
Bick says he has a $500,000 gap he needs to fill. “Any little bit helps in trying to get this project to the closing date,” he said.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation sets a minimum requirement of $20,000, Bick said, and that can be in the form of a financial grant, a waiver of fees like impact fees, a deferral of fees or a loan.
He said a straight-up grant of $20,000 would be good; more would be better. “A grant works best for me,” he said.
It’s been done in the past, Snowberger said. A loan would have to have its terms negotiated and approved, he said, and that would take time.
Mayor Blake Bell at one point tried to make a motion, but Thieryung interrupted.
“As a business owner, I wouldn’t invest all this money unless I was going to make the money back,” he said. “So I don’t know why they need our $20,000 if they have an approval from the county.”
“Can we come back at a later date?” Bailey said. “We’re caught off-guard with this money thing.”
“The thing these days in the development world is, yes, we’re always coming back to the till, asking for a little bit more, because that’s the way the projects are going,” Bick said.
Bailey tried to make a motion without the $20,000, but Bell stopped him.
“Then there’s nothing to approve, is there?” Bell said. “Then we ask him (Bick) to come back to a meeting in January and present at that time.”
“Is there any other funding you intend to come back to us for?” Tanner asked.
“Depending on how construction costs go, I may come back in a year and ask for more,” Bick said. “To the city or the county.”
Bick said the company’s principals are putting in $3.6 millions of their money in self-source financing. “That’s a program we’re going after,” he said, and they’re getting $7.2 million in sale funds. The principals are putting up all the guarantees.
The council kept coming back to how to provide the money and if it’s needed.
Finally, they decided to wait and see what happens with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and have Bick come back in January.
CRA inches forward
Members heard an update on the progress toward creating a South Brooksville Community Redevelopment District.
Miller, the county’s planning administrator, showed the two proposed maps and said more discussion might be needed about the boundary.
The Tax Redevelopment Advisory Committee had a map with the western boundary extending to Cortez Road and encompassing some businesses, which would affect the city’s tax revenue.
A staff map has the western boundary at Mildred Avenue.
Connie Green of the TRAC said an update is needed because original plans date from around 2010, and some houses and businesses no longer exist.
Still, “we feel we need to encompass” some areas, even if people don’t live there, because those areas are part of the heritage.
Miller said the county liked the second map, though some more boundary work might be needed.
Bailey pointed out that people who talk to him sometimes don’t know if they live in the city or county because of the boundary lines, and he said the only way to know for sure is to see what color garbage can they have.
The city and county have to approve the lines because the CRA will encompass both jurisdictions, Miller said, and Bell noted that areas in the county are not asking to be annexed into the city.
Once the CRA is defined, money can be used regardless of jurisdiction, Miller said.
The next step is to incorporate any revisions to the CRA’s boundaries from the city and county, then present them to the TRAC committee in January, Miller said, and in the meantime begin working on a “finding of necessity” for CRA creation based on the boundaries.
As with a lot of things, it will come back after the holidays.
In other action
The council approved 5-0 the first reading of the impact fee ordinance. It will come back on Jan. 9 for a second reading.
The council approved 5-0 a fee schedule for the Community Development Department.
The council approved 5-0 the purchase of a new garbage truck for $371,837.76 to replace one with more than 125,000 miles.
The council approved 5-0 Parks and Recreation director David Howard’s request to demolish the house at 306 Darby Lane using city staff and equipment. The demolition permit cost $170, and Howard said the landfill cost is $1,850. Bailey suggested using a landfill on Sunshine Grove Road that charges $50 a load, and the money saved can go toward a possible dog park on the site.
The city honored the D.S. Parrott Middle School junior varsity girls basketball team. The players honored are Lilly Mae Bates, Aniya Crawford, La’ Nivea Ford, Angelina Castaing-Gardin, Hailey Mellrup, Miabella Morris, TiAnna Mosquera, Paris Bates, Brooke Riddle, Ava Scrivens and I’Manyi Tillman. The team’s coaches are Sheena Johnson, Dena Frye, Patrick Brandhuber, Valerie Curren, Lamon Neal and Tyjuan Lee.
The city recognized winners of the holiday contest. The winning properties were 444 N. Lemon St., most spirit; 205 Sunset Drive, honorable mention; 532 Oakhill Court, most festive; 122 S. Brooksville Ave., third place; 133 S. Brooksville Ave., commercial winner; 960 Coachlight Lane, most creative; 6006 Summit View Drive, second place; and 4843 Hickory Oak Drive, first place.