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Bond proposal could pay for Traceway lights

By Randy Bell

Traceway Park, home to Clinton’s softball, baseball and soccer fields, could potentially get new lighting, if a proposed bond project comes to fruition.

Traceway Park, home to Clinton’s softball, baseball and soccer fields, could potentially get new lighting, if a proposed bond project comes to fruition.

For as long as the current Board of Aldermen has been in office, it has been looking for a way to pay for new lights at Clinton’s Traceway Park. A recent conversation between Mayor Phil Fisher and a financial adviser may have provided the answer.

“She came to the City and said, ‘Do you have any need for bonds?’” Fisher recalls, initially thinking that a couple of outstanding bond issues would preclude Clinton from acquiring any additional debt. “I said, ‘I really don’t think we can do anything.’ But she said, ‘Maybe you can.’”

The plan would involve using money, which would become available as the old bonds are paid off, to install new metal poles and LED lights on the playing fields at the park. The improvements were originally estimated several years ago to cost $5 million; but, because of inflation and rising costs, the project could now run close to $6 million. However, the City wouldn’t have to wait to move ahead with the project.

“We have some bonds in that approximate amount coming due,” says Fisher. “If we start the process now, we can go ahead and move forward with that and get it underway a lot earlier than just waiting two more years. Because of the length of time it takes to go from start to finish with the bonds, once we’re obligated, we can go ahead and start the project. So, we’ll have the project completed by the time we make the first payment [on the bonds].”

The mayor says financing the new lights this way means a tax increase won’t be necessary.

“Bond money is paid out of the general fund,” he points out. “We set aside a millage [to cover the bonds]. So, instead of adding to that millage [for the lighting project], the millage is staying the same. We’re just re-purposing the money. This, to me, makes the most sense, simply because we’re not asking for new money.”

City Clerk Jimmy Baldree says the bonds retiring in 2026 covered construction of the Public Works building, plus improvements to Brighton and Traceway parks and the City’s water system.

Fisher says if the Board approves the lighting project, it would still take some time for bond attorneys to get the financing arranged.

“But I would think that we could be in construction by late this year or early next year.”

“This could potentially be one of the biggest sports lighting projects in the state of Mississippi’s history,” says Parks and Recreation Director Courtney Nunn. “Ultimately, it’s going to provide safer fields, [and] we’ll have better light quality. It’ll be safer for the kids. They won’t have shadows as they’re going to catch a ball.”

Nunn also says there would be less light pollution affecting nearby neighborhoods, and also notes that LED lights are more energy-efficient.

She says the new lights should attract more events to Traceway.

“It’s going to bring back those tournaments that we used to have,” says Nunn. “They’re going to want to come to Traceway, and it’s going to take us to the next level.”

As a Clinton native and the father of young children, Ward 3 Alderman Robert Chapman is intimately familiar with the park.

“To say the [upgraded] lighting has been needed for a long, long time is quite the understatement,” Chapman says. “If we’re going to eventually do this anyway, why not do it now? Why not go ahead and give the six- and seven-year-olds a better lighted field and not wait till they’re thirteen. This is kind of a no-brainer.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Karen Godfrey told her fellow Board members at a February 5 work session that the financing arrangement is the “only way” to get the project done.

“I don’t see how we could go wrong,” Godfrey said.

Nunn says the project could be expanded beyond Traceway to include new lights at the Brighton Park tennis courts and the basketball courts at Northside and Robinson parks.

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