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A united North Little Rock City Council swiftly approved a $10.875 million bond issue Monday to build the city's new police and courts building while repealing its earlier passage of a $4.925 million bond issue that would have financed improvements at the city's airport.

Members of the City Council voted 8-0 on the ordinance Monday evening that both approved the police and courts bond issue and repealed issuing bonds for airport improvements.

The City Council had split, 4-4, on Aug. 26 on an ordinance that combined the passage of the two bond issues into a single vote. The four council members who voted against that ordinance had stated that they preferred to vote separately on the two bond issues. Mayor Joe Smith then cast the deciding vote for a 5-4 approval.

Smith announced late last week that he would ask the City Council to repeal the airport bonds because of questions about how the bonds could be used, saying that having previously combined the two bond issues into one piece of legislation could jeopardize the police and courts project. The bond issue for the police and courts also had to be reapproved in the new action.

The improvements that were scheduled for the North Little Rock Municipal Airport, 8200 Remount Road, included a general aviation center, a corporate aircraft hangar, expanded parking and a restaurant. The aviation center and the restaurant would both be leased to private businesses to operate.

"The bond counsel had concerns about having long-term leases on buildings constructed with bond money," City Attorney Amy Fields said.

The Friday, Eldredge & Clark law firm is the city's bond counsel.

Putting together a package of leases also couldn't be done in the short amount of time Smith said he would have liked, which would have harmed progress on the police and courts building, tentatively being called the Justice Building.

Construction on the Justice Building is expected to begin as early as November.

"When you get in a hurry, you make mistakes," Smith said. "It will cost us more money in the long run, but we don't want to make mistakes.

"We can't wait on the money for the Justice Building," he said.

Lease issues in question at the last North Little Rock Airport Commission meeting mainly concerned the aviation center operation that manages the city hangar. The center sells fuel and performs other activities for private and corporate aircraft and leases space for corporate jets. The proposed lease is for 10 years with options for extensions of 10 years and then five additional years. The lease also has a provision that would prevent the city from selling aviation or jet fuel.

The city is looking at municipal airport operations and their lease agreements in similar-sized cities, Fields said, and will also meet with bond counsel "to see what is our best course to take."

Metro on 09/10/2019

Print Headline: NLR pulls airport bond, keeps funding for police

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