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TEXARKANA, Ark. — A vote slated for Monday's meeting of the city Board of Directors could be the biggest step yet toward making a new recreation and community center a reality.

If the Board votes to accept a loan agreement, $885,000 will become available to rehabilitate the former Boys and Girls Club building on Legion Drive.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will guarantee the loan. The project aims to provide recreational space, facilitate community programs and events and generate economic development through sports tourism, according to a HUD statement.

Plans for the 12,245-square-foot building include a multipurpose gym and a fitness/activity room. The facility will have a play area for younger children, a computer lab, a tutoring room and meeting areas. The building has been vacant since 2008 and needs extensive electrical and plumbing work, roof repair and a new gymnasium floor.

"This loan guarantee will take an outdated Boys and Girls Club and transform it into a modern facility that will be an asset to the community. The new Club will provide a wide range of community services including a computer lab and tutoring room for the young to address their educational needs and prepare them for future opportunities," said Beth Van Duyne, who was a HUD Regional Administrator when the agency first approved the city's application.

HUD is providing the loan guarantee assistance under its Section 108 program, which enables local governments to borrow money from private investors at reduced interest rates. State and local governments use this financing to assist with a variety of community and economic development projects, including projects that create employment opportunities.

Section 108 loans are not risk-free. However, local governments borrowing funds secured by the program must pledge a portion of their current and future federal Community Development Block Grant allocations, as well as additional project assets, to cover the loan amount as security for the repayment of the loan. The length of time for repaying these loans can be up to 20 years.

Awarded by HUD, Community Development Block Grants are a common means for cities to finance infrastructure improvements and other pricey projects.

In March, Assistant Public Works Director Tracie Lee presented the financing plan to the city Board of Directors. Debt service payments on the loan will probably be $30,000 to $50,000 a year, she said.

City officials expressed their pleasure that the long-sought improvements soon could be realized.

"A couple of things you have to keep in mind: On one hand, you have the ability to use a federal subsidy that we receive annually to pay back the loan without costing the local taxpayer one dime, or do you scrape up $500,000 of local tax dollars for building demolition. I truly believe we have an opportunity to really do something special for the community, who in my opinion deserves it," City Manager Kenny Haskin said.

Ward 6 Director Terri Peavy, who sponsored the plan, agreed.

"For years, the city has fielded concerns from the community about the continuing disuse of this facility. Attending the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention conference over two years ago and utilizing what we learned there renewed our focus on repurposing this facility. Repurposing, not only for our youth, but for the entire age spectrum in our community. The Section 108 funding will allow us to move forward with our vision," Peavy said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 216 Walnut St. Before the vote, the Board will conduct a public hearing on accepting the loan agreement.

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