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Wesson eyes funding finish to Old School

Wesson eyes finish to Old School funding

In a called meeting last Thursday night, the Wesson Board of Aldermen meet to hold a hearing on bridging a funding gap for the Old School project. Mayor Alton Shaw was out of town, but he was still able to ‘attend’ the meeting via conference call. Mayor Pro Tem Van Graham was officially in charge of the meeting.
The only issue on the agenda was to discuss seeking a CAP loan from Mississippi Development Authority that would provide the $250,000 needed to complete the $2 million old school project. A little over $1.75 million has been secured through federal grants and appropriations. The project has been going on for around 8 years now and could be complete enough in the next few months to allow use of the facility as a community center. Mayor Shaw indicated Thursday night that his office has received several inquiries into holding wedding receptions at the historic building.
A required legal notice advertising the intent of the board to seek the CAP loan in the called meeting ran in the newspaper, but its language caused a minor uproar with some of the town’s residents. Several showed up at the meeting to voice their concerns and to get clarification of an email letter that Mayor Shaw sent earlier in the week.
In the letter, Shaw explained that the town “discovered a way. . .to take advantage of the use of historical tax credits offered for restoration of historic buildings, that would net us between $500,000 and $600,000.” The tax credits, Shaw said via conference call, could be sold at a tax credit sale, usually for 80 to 90 cents on the dollar. Knowing this, the town gave its okay to continuing working on the project in an earlier meeting and would seek to hedge the $250,000 against the historic tax credits.
Local resident Jean Ricks spoke on behalf of the other locals at the meeting. “We’re all more than a little confused,” she said. Ricks told Shaw and the board that Wesson couldn’t afford to pay back a $250,000 loan–more specifically, the notice said that if the town failed to pay back the loan on the terms set forth, the town could lose property and sales tax monies until the debt was satisfied. She noted that the town of Wesson doesn’t pay taxes, so tax credits would be impossible. “And, I’m not sure anyone knows what a tax credit sale is,” she added.
Shaw spent several minutes attempting to explain where the the tax credits come from, who owns tax credits, how they are sold and what they are worth, until former town attorney Jeff Varas arrived to give the residents a better understanding.
“Tax credits can come from any agency within the government, but usually they come from state and federal departments of archives and history. What the town is trying to do is no different than what the Supervisors have done with DG Foods in Gallman, and what the City of Hazlehurst has done on various projects. The CAP loan is a low- or no-interest loan that can be payable over 10, 20 or 30 years–whatever the terms are set forth in the final agreement,” Varas explained. “By selling their historical tax credits, the town will be able to recover more than enough money to pay off the loan in only a few months and not have to carry the debt long-term.”
Ricks asked Shaw if he could guarantee that the town could get the funds from the tax credits to pay off the loan. “I am 100% certain that we will,” Shaw stated.
Any leftover proceeds from the sale of the tax credits, which could be up to $400,000, will be used to tackle street repairs that have been badly needed in the town for several years, Shaw added.
Ricks also asked Shaw to post the official minutes from the town’s meetings in public places around town because “not everyone can or wants to attend a meeting every month.” Shaw said that he would see to it and said that meeting minutes are posted on the town’s website.
After the discussion, the board voted 4-0, with Graham abstaining, to seek the CAP loan and secure the funds to finish the old school project. The next meeting of the town’s aldermen will be held on Tuesday, June 4 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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