The city of Brookhaven made a bit of history at its May 22 meeting when the City Council unanimously approved to issue $12 million general obligation bonds to pay for its new public safety building. The building will be built on the city’s 19-acre parcel on Briarwood Road and along the Peachtree Creek Greenway.

This is the first time the city has issued general obligation debt.

Voters approved a special local option sales tax in November and as part of the referendum they also voted to allow Brookhaven to issue general obligation bonds with SPLOST proceeds used as repayment.

“This is the first general obligation debt we are doing as a city and I want to thank the voters,” Mayor John Ernst said after the vote. “I’m looking forward to getting the [new building] up and on the Greenway.”

Groundbreaking is expected in the fall of 2018 and construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020.

City Councilmember Bates Mattison asked why the city was issuing general obligation bonds to build the public safety headquarters rather than using SPLOST revenues as they are paid to the city’s coffers. The city is expected to collect $47 million over six years through the SPLOST.

When buying a house, Assistant City Manager Steve Chapman said, people are expected to pay for it up front. This is the same kind or process, he said.

Chapman also explained the process for finding a company to issue the bonds. On April 23, the city published a request for proposal for the SPLOST bond. This RFP was posted on the internet and sent to 34 firms for consideration.

Seven firms responded with bids for a $12 million bond with an annual interest rate cap of 2.8 percent. After an analysis of all the bids by a review committee, the recommendation was to award the bond to STI Institutional and Government Inc, a.k.a. SunTrust Bank, which maintains offices in Brookhaven, Chapman said. The city secured a rate of 2.75 percent, which beat the current U.S. Treasury 5-year bond yield of 2.9 percent, he added.

At the same meeting, the council also approved the newly formed Brookhaven Facilities Authority, made up of City Council members. The Facilities Authority will now be able to issue bonds between $6 million to $9 million to construct the first mile of the Peachtree Creek Greenway. The city is borrowing against the hotel-motel tax increase approved by the state legislature last year to fund the Greenway.

Construction bids for the Greenway could go out as soon as 60 days, said City Manager Christian Sigman. Plans are to break ground on the first mile between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road this year.

In a prepared statement, Ernst said clearing the way to issue general obligation bonds ensures “an aggressive and expeditious construction schedule in support of Brookhaven’s entire public safety function, including our police, municipal court and emergency management.”

“Furthermore, it supports the general public in another way, as it provides a crucial access point to another of Brookhaven’s prestigious initiatives, the Peachtree Creek Greenway,” he said.

The city has awarded an $800,000 contract to Rosser International, Inc., for architecture and engineering of the new public safety headquarters. Following that step, it will be put out to a competitive bid process for the actual construction.

When complete, the new public safety building will provide state-of-the-art amenities and room to grow for Brookhaven Police, which is now crowded into a rented building on Buford Highway near the Atlanta city limits. The current facility at 2665 Buford Highway only has 55 parking places for a department with 85 employees and a busy municipal court.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.