Officials stay upbeat about loan
Morgan County officials remain positive about a potential loan deal to rebuild the Morgan County Courthouse, which was destroyed in an August, 2006 fire.
County Administrator Bill Clark believes the loan will be a hybrid of two offers previously discussed with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and State Department of Commerce officials. The numbers and the details are still being worked out.
First loan option
In the first loan proposal, the 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 the loan option
would be a $5.7 million
loan at 3% interest from
the West Virginia Develop-
ment Office, making a
combined loan total of $9.2 million.
The county would only pay the USDA portion of the loan for the first 15 years. Then,
the loan would be renegotiated. The annual debt service on the $3.5 million loan would be $325,000, an amount that
county officials say they can afford.
Second loan option
The second option is a $9 million loan from the West
Virginia Development Office
at 3% interest. The annual
debt service would be $455,340, an amount that
county officials say they can't meet.
A balloon payment at 10 years is also part of the loan package. Interim funding would be needed because of having to pay construction costs upfront and getting reimbursement later.
A third loan possibility was discussed at a meeting with state officials. Those terms are still being negotiated, Clark said.
At that meeting, county officials asked if some loan requirements could be waived. They also requested a loan with 1% interest. Clark is hopeful that something can be worked out that will be in the commissioners' price range.
The commissioners are still looking at building a three-story courthouse, with either the outer shell of the third story completed or a finished third story, if the money comes together, Clark said.
The cost of a finished three-story courthouse has been estimated at about $13 million. The price tag for a courthouse with an unfinished third floor was placed at around $11 million.
The county is looking to borrow about $9 million to finance the courthouse, Clark said.
Architect Tom Potts has incorporated public comments about the courthouse design and made minor changes in a set of drawings, Clark said.
Officials had hoped for the courthouse project to go to bid by the end of February. The project timeline may have to be changed a little, but they are hoping to make the bid schedule.
"We haven't slowed down on the process," Clark said.
Fire Recovery Fund
The county's Courthouse Fire Recovery Fund now has $3,363,792. Most of the fund is from fire insurance money, which came to more than $4 million. A final insurance settlement of $280,406 will bring the Fire Recovery Fund total to $3,644,197.
Nearly $1.5 million was spent to get county offices back up and running in temporary quarters.
This year's county budget has a line item for the money raised by a property tax increase earmarked for a new courthouse.
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim said the money from the tax increase – about $325,000 — will be moved from the General County Fund into the Fire Recovery Fund after the remainder of the taxes is paid in March.
Officials said a debt capacity study showed the county can afford a $325,000 annual debt service for a loan due to the tax hike approved last spring.
Other funding possibilities
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito has requested $1.7 million in federal funds for the new courthouse. Senators and legislators have also been approached about helping to steer funding to the county and grants have been investigated.
Clark said they have followed every lead about government funding. He said they have been open to anyone with fundraising ideas.
Clark is excited about the new energy efficiency committee that will be meeting with the architect to explore geothermal heating and cooling, solar heating and other renewable alternative energy sources for the new building. He is interest in seeing what savings they can find in operating costs by using non-traditional energy sources.
The best funding scenario for the courthouse is for the state to help, Clark said. The USDA is also anxious to be involved, he said.
"We still pay our way," Clark said. He is confident that an acceptable loan package will come out of the negotiations.