Springfield City Council readies a $26 million bond package. Here's what it will fund

Marta Mieze
Springfield News-Leader

City leaders in Springfield plan to finance $26 million for various construction and renovation projects through a bond package. Here are the key takeaways.

What will the money be used for?

Four projects make up the entire special obligation bond package. The largest, tallying about $15 million, is going toward Phase I of Springfield Art Museum renovations. The renovations include an expanded education suite, high-volume gallery space, curatorial workspaces and a mechanical central plant that will provide the foundation for future expansions to complete the vision of modernizing the museum.

Another $4 million is set aside for improvements and rehabilitation of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. The project also is receiving $8 million in state funding. A bid received from a contractor provides several options with varying costs; City Council has not yet decided how to move forward with the project, but this bond package will give flexibility to fund the gap for the more expensive scope if that is selected.

The remaining amount of money borrowed will be split between renovations to Historic City Hall, with $5 million, and the acquisition and renovations of a new Workforce Development building, at $2 million. Currently, the city department and the Missouri Job Center are located at 2900 E. Sunshine St.

Alongside the bond package presented to council Monday night for an initial reading was another bill reallocating $4.4 million in carryover funds from the Historic City Hall project to the Workforce Development building. This was due to tax-exemption requirements on the financing that do not allow more than 10% of the facility to be leased. The Missouri Job Center is also home to partners who lease the space including Associated General Contractors of Missouri, the Workforce Development Board, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program among others.

How will the city repay the money?

The bonds will be repaid using Capital Improvement Sales Tax funds as well as rental revenues provided by the workforce development rental payments. City's Director of Finance David Holtmann said the anticipated interest rate is anticipated to be 4% over the life of the bonds.

Community feedback

Multiple members of the Art Museum Board spoke in support of the bond package as it relates to the large investment in the museum. They expressed gratitude for council's support thus far of the museum's vision for the future and emphasized the positive economic impact the expansion will have on the city as a whole.

"I do truly believe that art institutions, and specifically those that serve as public spaces, can play an important role in community and economic development by reminding us of our shared humanity, exposing us to different perspectives and by sparking joy, which is also important," Amanda Stadler, member of the Art Museum Board, said. "The Springfield Art Museum is already an asset to our community in these areas, but it really has the capacity and opportunity to do so much more."

Similarly, a couple Commercial Street stakeholders spoke with excitement for the future of the footbridge, sharing their appreciation for long-awaited funding going toward the bridge, which has remained closed for the past eight years.

MoreSpringfield City Council approves $26 million, phased approach for art museum renovations

But Andrea Sitzes, a member of the , shared her concerns about the building where the board and city department are currently housed. The Workforce Development Board serves the entire Ozark region across seven counties to identify and address workforce, education and training needs.

She said neither the board nor the Council of Local Elected Officials have had the time or opportunity to review the proposed changes to the location, calling on council to table the reallocation of carryover funds and to carve out the Workforce Development portion of the bond package. The board's approval is not required for the city to move forward with the plans, but rather the city is obligated to communicate a plan to relocate.

"I do understand per the agreement, that it's just a communication of the decision, that's all that's required," Sitzes said. "What we're really looking for is a true partner with us that can be collaborative in those services and in those decisions."

Holtmann said the bonds have to move forward to align with the timeline of the Art Museum that has pandemic relief funds tied to it and therefore has to move on a swifter deadline. While he said the workforce portion could be carved out and come back for financing at a later time, that would be much more costly.

With both decisions in front of council in three weeks on June 10, Mayor Ken McClure asked city staff to discuss the changes with the Workforce Development Board in hopes of creating a better dialogue and establish more clarity. A location and cost of a building to which the department would be moving to was not included.

Marta Mieze covers local government at the News-Leader. Have feedback, tips or story ideas? Contact her at mmieze@news-leader.com.