Members of the Grove City Council took the next step in fulfilling a Grow With Grove vision for a new civic center this week, when they gave city officials the green light to pursue financing options.

The decision came, on Tuesday, June 27, during a special city council meeting.

During the two-hour session, Gary Sparks, with Sparks Reed Architecture & Interiors; Rick Smith, with Municipal Finance Services; Gregg Bradshaw, a general contractor; and Christy Wright, chairman of Grow With Grove, spoke to the council about various aspects of the potential project.

Sparks presented preliminary full color artist renderings for what the building and site for the potential new civic center, based on what city officials have envisioned to meet the needs regarding square footage and multi-purpose rooms.

The feasibility study phase, which included an examination of the potential site for the center, near Wolf Creek Park, is complete, Sparks said.

“We are ready to go to Phase 2 of the feasibility study but need a dollar amount,” Sparks said, concerning the size of the building and potential funding available.

About the project

The study came after city officials entered into an agreement with Boogaloo Properties, LLC., in April to secure the option to purchase a 21.3 acre property along north Highway 59, for a possible site for the civic center.

The land is currently owned by the Kansas-based LLC., which is managed by Grant A. Wistrom.

That agreement, according to City Manager Bill Keefer, allows city officials to establish the eventual purchase price for the property at $27,000 per acre.

During the April 4 meeting, city officials paid a $5,000 nonrefundable deposit to secure the purchase of the property through Dec. 1, 2017. If city officials move forward with the purchase, the $5,000 will be applied to the eventual purchase price.

Discussion of the land purchase followed the March approved by the council to move forward with a $2 million sale agreement for the civic center and surrounding property with the Florida-based investment group.

That sale agreement includes a $10,000 deposit in an escrow account and an additional $90,000 in an escrow account upon the approval of a ballot question to fund a new civic center. The escrow funding would eventually be applied toward the purchase of the civic center.

The current civic center is a former Wal-Mart. When the Arkansas based corporation sold the facility to the city in 1994, the sale included a 50-year stipulation, stating the building could not be used as a wholesale club or a department store, according to city documents released at a previous city council meeting.

Concept Development has a commitment from an undisclosed retailer tenant that would not violate the previous sale agreement.

Looking to the future

The 66,000 square foot building on the preliminary drawing for the new civic center is estimated to cost $16.5 million, excluding land acquisition and furnishings.

The model, presented Tuesday, is based on a convention center in Ardmore that Grove officials and members of the Grow with Grove committee members task force visited in the past year.

Within the preliminary drawing, Sparks laid out what the building's footprint might entail, but he cautioned the council that everything was a concept, until a decision was made concerning the project's cost.

“You tell me if this is too high, if we need to do something different, or if we can go with it." Sparks said, saying the building's cost will be impacted upon a variety of factors.

During the session, council members and members of the public in attendance, discussed construction options, including what the facility might look like both inside and out, the life expectancy of the structure and how it will meet city codes.

“We want this to be a show piece for the community,” Keefer told the group, reminding those present that the sale of the current structure is contingent upon the completion of a new center.

Longtime Grove resident and member of the Oklahoma Tourism Commission Chuck Perry urged the council to go forward with the project.

“This city in this community deserves this project,” Perry said. “The community wants to grow, needs to grow. [Grove] is the fastest growing community in this state.

"We don't need to be a small town anymore."

Funding the effort

Smith, along with Allan Brooks with Public Finance Law Group of Oklahoma City, talked with those present about a variety of funding options for the center.

He talked about the pros and cons for the three possible funding sources, including an ad valorem tax, similar to a school bond, which would impact property owners, a surcharge on city utilities, or a sales tax which would impact everyone within Grove and the surrounding area.

Smith encouraged city officials look into funding available through a United States Department of Agriculture rural development loan. He said those loans, which come with a 40-year, fixed interest rate, could be the best bet for financing the project.

He said payment for the loan could come through a .25 or a .35 increase in sales tax, which could potentially raise the city's total sales tax levy from 9.3 to 9.5 percent. 

Keefer said if city officials plan to present a sales tax to voters during the Nov. 14 election, a decision must be finalized by the second meeting in August.

City officials must present the completed ordinance and ballot language to the Delaware County Election Board by Sept. 14, in order to conduct an election in November.

If approved by voters, any change to the sales tax would go into effect on April 1, 2018, with the first collections remitted to the county in June 2018. 

Wright, who also served as the Grove Rotary president during 2016-17, told the council she is confident fundraising for the project is a realistic solution to help pay for some of the costs.

“We raised $5 million for a hospital from the community,” Wright said. “We [Grove With Grove] are willing to run the campaign.

“Ultimately at the end of the day, you want a facility that will draw people that will want to come have events here."