$13 million in bonds make first turn
A first reading to a resolution that would authorize the county manager and the chief financial officer to arrange for the sale of $13 million in highway revenue bonds was approved on Thursday.
The commissioners unanimously approved the motion, with Doug Johnson being absent.
This was just a first reading. The sale would be for the purpose of highway construction and refunding certain bonds in the county with a maximum principle amount of $13 million.
“You are just authorizing staff to move forward and start working on it, not approving it,” said CFO Christine Vuletich.
The bonds would address four roads that need repairs, including Jacks Valley, Waterloo, Dresslerville and Centerville.
The approval allows staff to move forward and prepare bond financing.
The $13 million is higher than necessary to finish the roads, but Vuletich said it adds a cushion for legal costs or if they need to add another project.
“Where we are putting the money, is where the traffic is,” said commissioner Greg Lynn.
Commissioner Barry Penzel wanted to make sure that there was adequate money coming to cover the costs of the bonds.
Vuletich said that the gas tax is bringing in about $900,000 in annual revenue that can be used towards these costs.
The road projects were previously adopted in the county transportation plan but some people felt that wasn’t enough.
“I’m concerned that badly needed projects are being left out,” said Terry Faff.
Others were skeptical about the decision to do a bond, and wanted the commissioners to look at other options, including a pay as you go.
“Should we be doing these bonds at all?” asked Carl Schnock.
County Manager Larry Werner said that a pay as you go option wouldn’t be practical because the roads would have to be torn up for years.
This is just a preliminary resolution, and they will come back again before the board at the Nov. 3 meeting.
“We know what needs to be done,” said commissioner Nancy McDermid. “Drive down those roads.”
The board also approved a contract with Sherman and Howard LLC, for professional services to act as bond counsel and disclosure council services in the amount not to exceed $85,000.
The item was approved 3-1, with Penzel voting in opposition.
Vuletich said that Sherman and Howard LLC, has worked with Douglas County for many years and so their knowledge of the county is worth the cost.
Faff urged commissioners to take action to approve the bonds since some of the commissioners will be replaced at the start of 2017.
“If we don’t do this in the next three months it won’t get done,” said Faff. “There’s not going to be any bonds anymore, not in 2017.”
The board approved spending the $85,000, and the bonds will come back before the board in November.
■ The two items regarding sewer rates and payments for commercial dwellings were both unanimously approved on Thursday.
The first item is an introduction to an ordinance that would amend Douglas County Code, title 20, “Sewer Facilities and Non-Residential Wastewater Discharge Ordinance.”
The proposed ordinance would add language that allows the Public Works Director to temporarily reduce the monthly sewer bill for commercial customers that currently receive water service and are served by an individual water meter to their property.
Any future rate adjustments will be established by a resolution adopted by the county commissioners.
That means that commercial customers would be responsible for the monthly sewer bill regardless of whether or not the dwelling or commercial building is occupied.
“Thanks for listening to what the businesses said they needed,” said Penzel.
The commissioners will also discuss a fixed operations base rate for sewer and direct the Public Works Director Carl Rushmeyer to bring forward a rate resolution to the November 3, 2016 meeting.
Public Works has received several inquiries and requests to suspend sewer billing for commercial businesses that have closed or are otherwise not currently using the public sewer system.
Douglas County Code does not allow for seasonal shut-offs, and the fixed base charge would help commercial businesses by allowing them to pay one price instead of a connection fee over and over.
The fee would amount to $41.85 for commercial businesses.
The commissioners voted for establishing an increasing monthly sewer rates back in September 2014, Penzel voting in opposition.
The decision put rates at $67.62 for an estimated dwelling unit for fiscal year 2017 and increasing to $72.08 by fiscal year 2019.
Johnson Lane resident Mark Garic was concerned that only businesses were being accommodated and not individual residents.
“What are you going to do for us,” said Garic.
The commissioners will hear a second reading and possible adoption at the November meeting.
“I think it’s a good first step,’ said Penzel.