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Am.F. voters to decide on building projects

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AMERICAN FORK — City leaders hope residents have taken the time to learn that Tuesday's bond election is different than the one voters soundly rejected in 1999.

Unlike last year's bond election, this one calls for no tax increase. And in this year's bond election, this ballot has divided the issues so voters can vote separately on the police/courts building and the fire/ambulance facility. Consideration for a new City Hall complex is not included in this year's election.

Voters are being asked to approve an $8 million bond issue for a new police and courts building and a $2.5 million issue to either remodel an existing city building into a fire and ambulance facility or construct a new building for the facility.

"The proposal is that both be funded with general obligation bonds," Councilman Keith Blake said.

Officials say the city will likely build the facilities in the near future no matter the outcome of the election but hope residents understand and that funding the projects through voter-approved general obligation bonds would save the city thousands of dollars.

Perhaps more importantly is the savings the city would realize by constructing a combination police and courts complex. The construction costs would be cheaper because the two entities could share some amenities, officials say.

Also, state court officials have indicated a willingness to pay about half the construction cost through a 20-year lease.

"This funding opportunity is an opportunity we should not bypass," Blake said.

If voters reject the police and courts bond issue, state court officials have said they will look elsewhere to locate the north Utah County offices of 4th District Court.

Residents received fliers recently from a group supporting the bond issue. They also received an unsigned flier questioning aspects of the election. Most opposition at public hearings on the bond issues came from residents who believe voters have already told the city "no" too many times.

City leaders, however, say residents who have studied the issues know that the bond proposals will save the city money and that the facilities are desperately needed. Both projects have been scaled back significantly to reduce costs.

City leaders believe most residents favor the new construction and funding plans — but fear opponents will head to the polls while those who favor the issues will be passive and remain home.

Even though the bond election asks for a budget of $2.5 million for the fire and ambulance facility, architects estimate the project can be completed for about $1.7 million.

In addition, the election asks for an $8 million bond for the police and courts building, but officials want to remind residents that the city would only be covering half — the other $4 million would come from a lease with the state.

City finance officials say the city could bond for about $8 million without increasing property taxes. If both issues pass, the city would have to cover just under $6 million in bond payments, about $2 million under the level the city could fund. A tax increase would be avoided by shifting general fund monies, selling city assets and freeing up contingency funds.

"There is a proposal before residents to do these projects without increasing property taxes," Blake said.

If approved, the police and courts complex would be constructed on the east side of Church Street, east of the current police and courts building. The new 48,000-square-foot building would take about two years to complete.

If a new fire and ambulance facility is approved, construction would begin after the police and courts complex is finished. The city would either remodel the current police building into a fire and ambulance facility or construct a new building at 300 E. Main.

E-MAIL: jimr@desnews.com