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Jacksonville refinances 2013 bonds to save on interest

JACKSONVILLE —The Jacksonville City Council met briefly Tuesday night to approve the refunding and refinancing of two 2013 bonds on which the city owes over $11 million. 

The city called a meeting Tuesday, just one day after its regular meeting, to suspend the rules and vote on the approval of the two new replacement general obligation warrants, in which the city owes $9.45 million and $1.62 million, respectively.

According to City Administrator Albertha Grant, Tuesday was the first day the city could approve the new version of the loan, and a meeting was called to lock in the best interest rate possible.

“It doesn’t do anything with the current loan that we have,” Grant said. “It’s the same amount of years and the payment is a little bit less actually.”

The bonds, totaling $17.89 million, were originally issued in 2013 to help pay for the construction of the city’s now-complete public safety complex and the new Kitty Stone Elementary School.

The council was first approached in August by Brad Green, a representative from Raymond James, which served as an underwriter for the refunding of the bonds, with an opportunity to re-do the bonds at a lower interest rate.

According to Green, the interest rate on the 2013 warrants, which were and still are set to pay off in 2042, was 3.84 percent. The refinancing allows the city to refinance the loans for the same amount of time at a rate of 2.73 percent, saving the city $1,010,000 over the course of the 23-year payment plan.

“If you’re looking at this on a historical basis, not many times have you been able to do this at a rate like this,” Green said.

“I think it’s a good sign for the city to come out of the storm to see a brighter day,” Mayor Johnny Smith said. “We can almost think of it as kind of a gift.”

From Tuesday

Jacksonville council delays new zoning ordinance

JACKSONVILLE — A new set of zoning ordinances for Jacksonville has been three years in the making, but the City Council decided at its Monday meeting to wait just a little longer before giving approval.

The new ordinance, a 104-page document which was set to entirely replace the city’s existing zoning rules, was scheduled for a first reading at Monday night’s meeting, but the council voted to cancel the reading in light of some last-minute proposed changes, mainly regarding fraternity and sorority houses at Jacksonville State University.

“I hate to even think about another delay,” said Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith of the document. “I think there are enough changes that we need to re-advertise it.”

Stephens read the latest proposed changes before the council Monday, including the addition of a section back in that allowed JSU fraternity and sorority houses in R-3 zoning districts. A section allowing this exists in the current zoning rules, but Stephens said it was left out originally.

“The original intent, I guess would be the right word, and this was even beginning at the planning commission level, was not to allow fraternity and sorority houses off-campus,” Stephens said. “We’ve kind of had some second thoughts about that.”

The rules in the current zoning ordinance and in the proposed change to the new document, allow JSU organizations to make a special application before a house with up to six residents is allowed.

The document has been in the works for about three years, according to Mark Stephens, the city’s director of planning and development. Stephens and city building inspector Mark Williams drafted the document, which was approved by the Planning Commission and first presented to the council in a meeting in July 2018. After a revision process, in which council members went through document and suggested changes, a final draft was presented in August and Monday’s hearing was scheduled.

After the changes are made, the document will be advertised again before another hearing and first reading are scheduled.

The entire document, as it appears prior to Monday night’s changes, can be found on the city’s website.

A first reading that did take place Monday night was the rezoning of a property from a residential zone into a business one.

The property along Alabama 204, which was known as Winn Place III apartments prior to being heavily damaged in the March 19, 2018, Jacksonville tornado, reopened as the Roost apartments earlier this year.

Florence-based Noble Investments LLC, which had bought the complex just 60 days before the storm, plans to convert the property into a mixed-use development with the possibility of building store space to attract a business, according to CEO Mack Cornwell, who was at the meeting. Cornwell said the draw of a business like a coffee shop or taco stand helps recruit tenants to the complex as well as provides another option for JSU students.

“It’s obviously within walking distance of the school, so it’s a nice place to go get a taco between classes,” Cornwell said.

After a second reading of the change at a future meeting, the amendment can be approved by the council.

At Monday’s meeting, the council also approved the appointment of Laura Copeland as acting city treasurer. Copeland currently serves as the city’s finance accountant, and, according to Smith, had already been doing some of the duties of a treasurer, which has been a vacant position for some time.

“We haven’t had any need, and just kind of forgot about it,” Smith said.

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Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or On Twitter @DMayes_Star.