HIGHLAND | The check was in the mail — and it came four years sooner than expected.
With Hammond unexpectedly paying off its $1.7 million loan from Highland last week, Highland officials on Monday began pondering what to do with the cash.
Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin noted that the check arrived in the mail last Wednesday. It covered the $1.75 million principal and latest interest of $3,184.
The money was loaned to Hammond in 2006 to help raze the crime-riddled River Park Apartment complex.
Griffin said he believes Highland should repay its own loan taken out to provide the original loan to Hammond.
"We're happy to repay the bond," said Town Council President Brian Novak, D-4th.
The balance of the bond is slightly more than $700,000, which would still leave the town with a bit more than $1 million in its pocket, Griffin said.
"It’s a nice Christmas in August," Redevelopment Director Cecile Petro said.
Although the Town Council controls all expenditures, the money belongs to the Redevelopment Commission.
If the bond is repaid, speculation will begin on what to do with the remaining $1 million.
"The Redevelopment Commission already has goals and a priority list" of projects, Petro said.
In light of the sudden appearance of the funds, this list will be refined on Wednesday at the commission's study session, Petro said.
The top priority has been to redevelop North Kennedy Avenue starting with the 11-acre Public Works site.
Petro noted that the adjacent 21-acre Sharp Athletic Complex is also on the list, but this will require action from the Park Board.
"There are developers who need that kind of acreage," she said of the combined 32 acres.
But she added that others might only need the space occupied by Public Works.
"It's developer and project specific," Griffin said.
This means that the garage and softball fields would not be moved unless there was a definite project approved with a specific developer.
"We can't (do this) until we have some place to move them," Petro said.
Thus, the town must acquire replacement properties, in advance, where the garage and fields could be relocated.
Petro said she is happy that things are working out well on both sides of the Hammond-Highland border.
She added that the best project for Highland would be something iconic, with multiple stories, that would trigger a domino effect of redevelopment down Kennedy.