Money sought for new courthouse
A loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) looks hopeful to fund the rebuilding of the Morgan County Courthouse, according to the Morgan County Commission.
The best interest rates for the loan at present seem to be from the USDA, which is anxious to work with the county, said Commission President Glen Stotler. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1-September 30 and they can't put in their USDA loan application until October 1, he said.
The county was still waiting for a final settlement from the insurance company on replacement items that had been purchased to get the government back up and running, said Stotler.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said the items were called loss of use or business interruption expenses in the insurance business
Stotler believed that the county would have between $3.5 and $4 million from insurance money toward rebuilding the courthouse. They hoped to borrow more than $5 million to help pay for the courthouse construction.
Commissioner Tommy Swaim thought the insurance money would be around $4 million. He felt that $5 million was about the limit of the county's debt load.
Hutchinson felt they could generate enough funding through a $9 million low-interest loan and $4 million in insurance money. The money would finance the new two-story courthouse design as well as parking solutions, she said. Hutchinson was also opti-
mistic that they could get
started with the project in the spring.
Loan preparations, other help
The county has made loan preparations by hiring John Stump of Steptoe and Johnson to do a debt capacity study. They must prove to the USDA that the county can meet the debt service on the loan, which would be about $300,000 a year for 30-40 years. The 9% tax increase that was approved earlier this year was enacted to meet the annual loan debt service.
John Kunkel of J.C. Kunkel and Associates is the county's bond counsel for the courthouse project. He has been exploring other funding options for them, Stotler said.
There was also a historical and cultural review that needed done as well as an assessment of flood plain issues, said Swaim. The flood plain issues would not stop the project from going forward, he said.
Stotler believed that they could move the courthouse project forward quickly once the USDA loan application was in.
No state help yet
None of the commissioners has heard anything back from Governor Joe Manchin about any assistance to rebuild the courthouse. The commissioners had asked for a no-interest loan from the state that would have enabled them to borrow more money for the project.
Stotler emphasized that the commissioners didn't ask the Governor for a handout—they had requested a no-interest loan. No-interest state loans had occurred for other projects in the past, said Stotler.
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Hutchinson felt that pride should be an issue in rebuilding the courthouse since we are the gateway to other states.
"We should put our best foot forward as a state, not just as a county," she said.
There have been continuing discussions with state legislators about the possible courthouse funding, but nothing positive has surfaced yet, Stotler said. The county has also sent letters to foundations and other revenue sources, but nothing has come of them to his knowledge.
Delegate Daryl Cowles said there is ongoing discussion with state officials about help for rebuilding the courthouse, but there is no news about possible assistance from the state.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito has requested that a $1.7 million federal appropriation be earmarked for the courthouse project, said Stotler. He hoped that the money would come through in a timely manner.
Swaim had high hopes that word would come out of Charleston soon about some state help and that Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito would come through with some funding. They have pursued funding with Senators Byrd and Rockefeller and worked most of the angles, he said.
The best scenario would be if the Governor would loan us about $4 million and we pay it back interest-free, said Swaim.
We have to move on
"We have to move on. We can't wait forever," said Swaim.
The county paid for the demolition of the building and has spent a lot of money already, Swaim said. He believed that the county would get the balance of the money we needed somewhere.
Hutchinson said she had gone to see the Governor and was considering writing him a letter. She said that it couldn't hurt if people wrote him to say that we needed help. They had been waiting to see if they would get money from the state, but Hutchinson didn't think that money from the state would be forthcoming.
"Every month we delay, the construction cost is increasing," she said.
The county was trying to move as fast as possible on the courthouse project, said Swaim.
"Government moves like molasses running uphill in January," he said.
It's just the nature of government that things take a little longer than planned, he said. Swaim hoped they could get everything wrapped up and begin building a new courthouse by late spring or early summer.
Stotler also believed we needed to move forward. He said they didn't want to rush the project, but noted that a decision needed to be made in the next four-six weeks to meet the time frame for a January bid on the project.
"We want to get what the people of Morgan County deserve," said Stotler.