WALKER – The Walker City Council approved three ordinances on Monday, March 11, that bought the land and adjusted the city budget to pay for a new City Hall.

The City Council approved paying $680,000 to John Blount Investments LLC for a 4.72-acre tract in the 13000 block of Aydell Lane, behind the Hancock Whitney Bank, which faces Walker South Road.

The council also approved two ordinances to shift $680,000 for the land and $6.5 million to build City Hall into the general fund. Separate public hearings were held for each ordinance, but there was little discussion from council members or the audience.

Each passed unanimously.

Mayor Jimmy Watson offered most of the comments, explaining how his administration decided on the tract and why it was the best deal for the city.

“We feel comfortable with this piece of property," Watson said. “We feel it will meet our needs for 3 to 5 years, and for 40 to 50 years out, so we won’t have to move again.”

“I think we have a good deal for this property,” Watson said.

The property is being bought using money in the bank, he said, not bonded money.

“We won’t have to pay interest on it,” he said.

“Six hundred and eighty thousand dollars is a good price for this piece of property,” Watson said.

The mayor said the city had two appraisals done – “One appraisal put it as high as $1 million” – and the owner had a separate appraisal done.

City Finance Director Mike Cotton said the $680,000 broke down to $2.93 per square foot for the property. The mayor said his administration ruled out property on Walker South Road, where property has cost $16 to $18 a square foot.

City Hall will be a three-story building with 9,000 square feet on each floor, the mayor said.

The current City Hall has 6,000 square feet and long-term planning with the help of architect Labarre Associates Inc. determined Walker would need 17,000 square feet, Watson said.  

City officials looked at six other properties, including one next door to the current City Hall on Florida Boulevard, Watson said.

Two sites were only 2.7 acres and 2.5 acres, and both had price tags of more than $1 million, he said.

Another site near the proposed Sherwin-Williams Paints store would have cost $200,000 to clear the trees, and the city would have had to build a road to access it, he said.

“Since I’m in an explaining mood tonight, $6.5 million sounds like a lot of money and it is,” Watson said.

The construction of City Hall will be paid for with bonded money through the Louisiana Local Government Environmental Facilities and Community Development Authority.

According to the ordinance, the bonds will be paid off over 30 years. It will increase the general fund bond interest expenses by $241,000 but lower the general long-term debt by $120,000 a year.

Walker was approved for up to $10 million, Watson said, but it was estimated the building could be built and furnished for $6.5 million.

“We did not ask for a tax or a millage. It won’t cost people themselves any money,” the mayor said.

The city will take advantage of its large natural gas system and the fact that Waste Management converted its trucks to natural gas, and they are filled up by the city.

That brings in $225,000 a year, Cotton said.

One of City Hall’s floors will be rented out, to bring in $140,000 a year, which will also help pay off the bonds, Watson said.

In the future, if Walker grows enough and there is a demand for the space, the city could occupy the floor it will rent out and not have to pay for another building, he said.

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