County, state officials talk courthouse funds
Morgan County Commissioners Glen Stotler, Tommy Swaim and Brenda Hutchinson met with Department of Commerce Secretary Kelley Goes last Thursday to further discuss courthouse funding proposals.
The proposals were received two weeks ago from the West Virginia Development Office.
Joe Martin, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Joe Manchin, Department of Commerce legal counsel Brian Helmick and Morgan County Administrator Bill Clark were also at the meeting.
County officials voiced concerns about the proposals at the meeting. They requested that state officials revisit the ideas and waive some requirements to make them more workable, said Stotler.
The commissioners had originally hoped for a no-interest loan. Stotler said a 1% interest loan could be possible.
State officials were given copies of the county debt capacity study and architect Tom Potts' latest courthouse renditions. Stotler said they had a positive meeting
The county needs roughly $9 million to proceed with the courthouse construction. Some $3.5 million to $4 million in insurance money is available for the courthouse rebuilding.
County officials are still waiting for some insurance claims to be settled. The cost of a new three-story courthouse was estimated at $12.9 million.
First loan option
A cooperative loan from the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the West Virginia Development Office is one option being discussed.
USDA would loan Morgan County $3.5 million at 4.65% interest over 15 years. The county would face a balloon payment of the whole debt plus interest after 15 years.
Part of that option would be a $5.7 million loan at 3% interest from the State Development Office, making a combined loan of $9.2 million, said Stotler.
The county would only pay the USDA portion of the loan for the first 15 years. After 15 years, the loan would be renegotiated. The debt service on the $3.5 million loan would be $325,000, an amount the county can afford, Stotler said.
Second loan option
The second option is a loan for $9 million from the West Virginia Development Office at 3% interest.
The annual debt service for this loan would be $455,340, an amount the county can't afford, said Stotler. A balloon payment at 10 years is also part of this loan package, he said.
Interim funding would be needed because of the county having to pay for the construction costs up front. The balloon payments were also worrisome, but they may find a way to deal with them, he said.
They are still negotiating the proposals with the state and the USDA, said Stotler. He felt optimistic that a funding agreement would come out of the talks.
Commissioner Swaim said of the trip, it was important for the commissioners to meet with state officials face-to-face about the funding so they understood county goverment needs. Swaim believed state officials "sincerely want to fund us."
Commissioner Hutchinson said it was a cordial meeting and that it was essential that all three of the commissioners went to Charleston. She hoped they would receive a new funding proposal within the next two weeks.
Hutchinson said the West Virginia Development Office was committed to finding a way to make it work.
Stotler didn't know what offer would come from the talks, but said it could be a combination loan.