State officials gave the city of Kenner permission Thursday to refinance $47 million in sales tax bonds despite objections from residents.
The city wants to refinance debt and make major thoroughfares more aesthetically pleasing. The planned improvements include bicycle lanes, public art and landscaping. Much of the focus will be on Loyola Drive or Williams Boulevard.
The borrowing plan went before the state Bond Commission Thursday at the State Capitol.
Richard Brown, a member of Citizens for a Better Kenner, complained about the city’s handling of the bonds. He said city officials ignored rules in a rush to get the plan moving. “We believe this is premature,” he said.
Brown said the city council resolution approving the bond issue will not be valid for another two days. He said the city submitted an application to the state Bond Commission before the city council considered the issue.
“The resolution you have has no force of law,” said Walt Bennetti, president of Citizens for a Better Kenner.
Whit Kling, director of the State Bond Commission, said he could not offer an opinion on whether the city followed its rules.
Kling said state officials could approve the borrowing contingent on the city resolution becoming valid. “Whether or not it was under the city ordinance, I can’t address,” he said.
Kent Schexnayder, the city of Kenner’s financial adviser, said the city wants to refund outstanding bonds for an interest rate savings and borrow additional money.
“We’ve held a number of town hall meetings, press conferences to address all these issues. They can raise their objections. We submitted all the information timely. The council adopted the resolution. We submitted that,” Schexnayder said.
State Treasurer John Kennedy offered Citizens for a Better Kenner and Schexnayder time to huddle about their differences.
“Would it be productive to ask y’all to meet and try to work this out?” Kennedy asked.
Schexnayder rejected the offer.
“Their objections will be their objections no matter what,” Schexnayder said.
Brown said he just wants the proper procedure to be followed. “We just think they’ve rushed this,” Brown said.
State Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, made a motion for the commission to approve the borrowing.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne interjected, suggesting that the commission make approval contingent on the effective date of the city resolution. State officials agreed, without objection, to the suggestion.
The bond issue is part of the city’s “2030 Strategic Plan for a Prosperous Future.”
The borrowing calls for $14.5 million in refunding bonds and $32.5 million in revenue bonds. Part of the money will be used to create a maintenance reserve fund in addition to funding improvements.