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Center continues to be a hot topic
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The forthcoming Richmond Hill Conference Center dominated the agenda of Tuesday night’s Richmond Hill City Council meeting.

Hired consultant Kirby Glaze went through financial figures for the $5.5 million dollar center, as he had earlier in the week at a called city meeting. Glaze made a couple adjustments.

For example, last week Glaze said $1.5 million was available in SPLOST funds. At Tuesday’s meeting, he said that was incorrect, but the money will be available in the near future.

Glaze received unanimous approval to proceed with two actions: 1. authorization to negotiate with bond lenders and 2. the city will now set aside $25,000 out of SPLOST proceeds for the next 29 months to be used for improvements to J.F. Gregory Park that will also serve as access roads and parking for the proposed conference center.

Glaze said the remainder of the balance will be financed via bonds collected by the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau, with the city to "lease back" the funds from the CVB. Glaze said this type of financial action is common practice among other municipalities.

Glaze said, according to the current financial plan, all the remaining funds for the construction of the conference center will be available within two and a half years.

Richmond Hill resident and former city council candidate Daryl Petermann, who was on the agenda, interjected that SPLOST money is not allotted properly with the creation of this center because, on the ballot, the project was supposed to be for a "conference/aquatic center". Petermann referenced a case in Forsyth County that rejected funding for the same reasons.

Davis said city attorney Ray Smith is familiar with the case and the city is not worried.

But Petermann said the SPLOST statute requires each project for the county and city be identified on the ballot with its estimated cost, and this was not present on the 2005 SPLOST ballot.

"This case involves the city suing the county and I really don’t know what his point was in referencing this case," City Manager Mike Melton said. "Even if this case were relevant, a ruling in Forsyth County has no ruling over Bryan County."

Melton said the SPLOST ballot, which was approved by 70 percent of voters, listed broad items such as water, sewer and cultural projects that leaves open an interpretation of the county and municipalities to decipher which projects would be prudent under those headings.

"And there are not too many judges that would rule against 70 percent of the voting population," Melton added. "I just don’t want it perceived that the city did something wrong here because we are following all of the legal steps necessary in the creation of the conference center."

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