Corporation takes charge of cultural center project


JASPER — The Jasper City/Library LLC board kicked off its work for the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center Wednesday evening.

The city and Jasper Public Library set up the LLC to manage bonding and construction for the Thyen Clark Cultural Center project. Formerly known as the Jasper Cultural Center, the Thyen Clark Cultural Center will unite the Jasper Public Library and the Jasper Community Arts Commission in a new building at the corner of Mill and Third streets. Arts Director Kyle Rupert and Library Director Christine Golden will manage the LLC and will be in charge of authorizing decisions and actions by the three-member board, consisting of Molly Buehler, Mark Fierst and Tina Mair.

It works like this: Once the property at Mill and Third streets, commonly called the Hoosier Desk property, is platted through the development’s planned unit development process, ownership of the property will pass from the Jasper Public Library Board to the Jasper City/Library LLC. The LLC will hold the bonds the city and library will use to fund construction of the project and lease the property to the city and library. Lease payments will equal the payments required to make bond payments, according to a description of the process written by Richard Starkey, the attorney from Indianapolis firm Barnes & Thornburg working with the city and library. The LLC will stay in place until the bonds are fully paid, at which point ownership will transfer to the City of Jasper and the Jasper Public Library.

The LLC process the city and library are using is similar to the building corporation process schools use for construction projects. Most recently, the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation used a building corporation for a project at Ireland Elementary School.

The city must run the cultural center project through an LLC due to a section of the Indiana Constitution that states no municipal corporation can take out debt that exceeds 2 percent of its net assessed value. Since that can limit a municipality’s borrowing power, however, the courts have permitted municipalities to enter leases because the lease payments are considered current payments, not debt, according to Starkey’s description.

Once construction starts, the LLC board will meet monthly to approve invoices associated with the project. Rupert and Golden will present the invoices for approval.

At the meeting Wednesday evening, the LLC board approved the lease with the city in preparation for bond sales. The board will meet again to approve a lease with the Jasper Public Library. That meeting has yet to be scheduled.

The Jasper City/Library LLC is in a special position because it is two government entities working together on the same project. In his roughly 30 years in law, Starkey said, he hasn’t worked a case like it.

“It’s very unique,” he said. “I’ve never seen this happen before.”

Demolition of the Hoosier Desk building at the corner of Third and Mill is wrapping up, and crews will likely be moving out by the end of the month. The next steps are for the city and library to elicit bids from contractors for construction. The request for proposals is expected to be published next week. From there, the Jasper Public Library Board and Jasper Arts Commission will review any proposals received and select a company to construct the cultural center. Construction is expected to start this year and wrap up in 2020.

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