Should Hendersonville citizens have to pay for TIF debacle?

By Neil Siders 

During a 2015 budgetary meeting, Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster attempted to secure funding for the local intersection project that would connect Saundersvillle Road with Gallatin Road via a tunnel.

During the discussion, Foster stated that all of the TIF money that funded the construction of Saundersville Road had been spent appropriately and the city was responsible for the construction of the connection road.

Borrowing a phrase from legendary journalist Wolf Blitzer “Lets go to the video tape.”

The interchange discussion starts at 49:47
(Editors Note: If you do not want to take Everything Hendersonville’s word for what the video revealed, please review the video and come to your own conclusions.)

According to the DVD, provided by the City, of the proceeding that took place during the February 12, 2008 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster and former Hendersonville Alderman Garry Forsythe definitively stated to the board, while seeking to secure permission to enter into a contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to commit to the project, that no additional city funding was necessary for the completion of the project unless the project overran the estimated budget.

Now, Foster is returning to the Board of Mayor and Alderman asking them to fund the full cost of the project, except for a $2 million contribution that TDOT said they would contribute to the project in 2008.

It is currently unclear if TDOT is still willing to contribute the funds. (Everything Hendersonville will discuss this and several other issues with TDOT in an upcoming interview.)

The project is currently estimated at a total cost of $5.6 million, leaving the city to fund around $3.6 million if TDOT does contribute the $2 million in funding.

This estimate is based on the project cost in 2008 dollars. To know what this project would cost today, the estimates need to be refigured to account for inflation and the current cost of materials and labor.

The Video Tape

During the meeting, Gary Forsythe said that in 2008 Hendersonville had secured the funding for the $5.6 million expenditure.

“That is $2.6 million coming from the TIF, $ 2 million coming from the matching state connector dollars, and a million coming from HALO,” said Forsythe.

Forsythe said during the 2008 meeting that he had addressed the issue in a previous Hendersonville Finance Committee meeting.

“I don’t have all of the questions but I can tell you the majority of the questions that were asked,” said Forsythe. “One of the concerns is, can they take it out of the TIF bond issues, and yes it is part of that.”

Forsythe said in 2008 he thought the fact that the city had arranged to install the new infrastructure with no additional city funding was a win for the citizens of Hendersonville.

“This is a case where now the owners have come to the table with a million dollars, the state has come to the table to match with a 2 million dollar grant, and they are withdrawing the funds to build a road they said they would build anyway, so its pretty much a good deal for us,” said Forsythe. “It is sort of our job to structure things where we would not have to go into debt to create some infrastructure.”

During the meeting, former Alderman Tommy Elsten asked if, due to the fact that TIF dollars would be spent on the project, should the city seek approval from the county as they also had authorized the original expenditure.

“The $2.6 (Million) is part of that 18 million is for that portion of Saundersville Road that was approved to be built,” said Foster in 2008. “That 2.6 million is going for exactly what the county agreed to spend the 2.6 million for. It is for that portion of Saundersville and the ramp we have already agreed upon under the TIF financing.”

As part of the contract, Hendersonville agreed to close Old Saundersville road in exchange for being allowed to construct the New Saundersville Road and have the New Saundersville Road connect to two TDOT road (386 and Gallatin Road).

According to documentation Old Saundersville Road must be closed on both sides prior crossing the CSX railroad tracks. Several alderman objected to the closing of the road and the fact the city could be held responsible for any expenditures beyond the original estimates.

Foster said, later in the meeting, that whether the city agrees with the closing of Saundersville road or not, the project was inevitable and the city should capitalize on having the funding in hand.

“This is not a question about whether Saundersville Road is going to close,” said Foster. “Saundersville Road will close over the next two, three or four years. If a traffic signal is warranted at that ramp, which every ramp from Nashville out here has a signal, except that one so far, or the two lane crossing of CSX has to be widened to three to accommodate the left turn lane onto Gallatin Road, Saundersville Road will be closed. This is not a vote about whether Saundersville Road will be closed or not. THIS IS A VOTE ABOUT WE HAVE IN HAND 5.6 MILLION TO FIND A SOLUTION. That is what this vote is about. We can close our eyes and vote the 5.6 million away.”

“This is $5.6 million toward a solution,” said Foster in the 2008 meeting.

(Editor’s note: Apparently, they voted with their eyes wide open, but the $5.6 million went away nonetheless. In the shell game the Mayor played after the vote, it seems the Aldermen lost sight of the small white pea for all of the sliding red cups.)

All of the factors Foster listed as determining factors to the closing of Saundersville Road and the implementation of the project have taken place.

The resolution, authorizing Foster to enter into a contract, contingent upon his reaching an agreement with HALO and the State of Tennessee to secure the funding was in place prior to Foster signing the contract, passed 10-3.

(Editors Note: Five current members of the board were present for the February 12, 2008 meeting and should not need to watch the video to know that HALO was defined as the original funding source for the project. Alderman Steve Brown, Alderman Hamilton Frost, Alderman Scott Sprouse, Mayor Scott Foster, and City Attorney John Bradley all held their current positions and were present for the 2008 discussion and passing of Resolution 2008-5)

The Resolution

Resolution 2008-5 passed on February 12, 2008 states that HALO Properties would be contributing around $3.6 million in funding for the project.

“The City of Hendersonville’s portion of the contract’s funding shall be paid. by HALO Properties, LLC, by certified funds to be provided to the Tennessee Department of Transportation upon execution of the contract, up to a total of $3,634,264. 00, including proceeds from available Tax Increment Financing bond funds; and The State of Tennessee must provide Local Interchange Connector funds in an amount not to exceed $2,000,000 to fully fund the estimated cost of the project, which is $5,634,264,” states Resolution 2008-5. “In the event it becomes apparent that the cost of the project may exceed $5,634,264, further authorization and funding must be obtained from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”

Recently Hendersonville received a letter from the TDOT stating that Hendersonville must start the $5.6 million interchange connector project which Hendersonville had previously agreed to implement.

According to Foster, TDOT has stated they will be holding off on any other TDOT projects in the city of Hendersonville until the city shows they have started preparations to complete the project they agreed to in 2008.

With all of the discussion of money in hand and resolutions defining HALO’s contribution to the project, Hendersonville’s citizens are left wondering if the money was in hand in 2008, where are those funds now.

For more information on Resolution 2008-5 and the legal ramifications of this resolution, please review this article’s companion article “The legal ramifications of the missing millions,” that will be released later in this week.

Everything Hendersonville will also publish an article after the interview with TDOT to provide more clarity on the issue.

Read More Here
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