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County is another step closer to closing on bonds

During a special called meeting Tuesday, the Grady County Board of Commissioners authorized Chairman Al Ball to execute documents regarding the $15 million bond issue to finance the construction of the 960-acre Tired Creek lake.
The county commission meeting followed a meeting of the South Georgia Governmental Services Authority, which voted to issue the debt on behalf of the county. Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham and Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, members of the SGGSA spearheaded the initiative and pushed for its approval.
The bond closing is set for Tuesday, Nov. 9 and the funds will be available to the county at that time.
Cliff C. (Bucky) Kimsey of Morgan Keegan and Jonathan Pannell, of the Savannah law firm of Gray and Pannell, briefed the county commission on the bond issuance Tuesday.
Kimsey said the county received investment grade ratings on the bonds and noted the county received higher ratings than did the city of Thomasville in its most recent bond issuance.
“Your investment grade rating helped us with marketing these bonds,” Kimsey said.
He credited the efforts of County Administrator Rusty Moye, Finance Director Mary Mayer and County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley for their help in “jumping through a lot of hoops.”
Kimsey says in the aftermath of the meltdown of the financial system, rating agencies are tougher now and asked lots of questions and lots of follow up questions, which had to be answered by county officials.
The bonds have been locked in at 3.64 percent for 20 years, but the county has the option to call the bonds in ten years if the board so chooses.
Pannell also expressed thanks for the work of Moye, Mayer and Cauley in the process.
“This is the first time I financed the construction of a lake. It’s been an interesting project,” Pannell said.
The debt service is structured such that the county will pay interest only payments through 2014 and in 2015 will begin making interest and principal payments.
The first interest payment of $231,388.51 will be due and payable on April 1, 2011. The total interest expense if the county does not call the bonds in 10 years will be just over $8 million.
In other Tired Creek news, County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley and Commissioner Charles Norton briefed the full board on a recent meeting with all of the agencies and consultants involved in the lake project to go over a schedule and outline of who was responsible for the various components of the project.
“This schedule gives you a good visual of how much has been accomplished since the permit was issued. There is a lot that has to be done before we actually go out there and begin construction,” Cauley said.
Moye noted that the targeted date to submit the master plan for the lake to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for final approval is May 10, 2011. Commissioner Norton pointed out that the projected date for actual construction to begin would fall between March 2012 and July 2013.
“This schedule just goes to show how important it is that the board moved forward and did not sit on its hands after the permit was issued. There is a lot of work to fit in within the five year constraints of the permit,” the county attorney said.
The county attorney noted that a major development took place Monday when the Cairo city council voted unanimously to donate land for use by the county in its wetland and streambank mitigation plan. The city is granting a mitigation easement to the county for approximately 116 acres.
“This is a real valuable contribution to the lake project. It was Mayor Richard VanLandingham and City Manager Chris Addleton who also spearheaded our bonds through the South Georgia Governmental Services Authority. Through the process the mayor and city manager acknowledged the value of the project for the entire community. I have heard from the mayor his interest for the city and county to partner on projects and I am encouraged by the council’s action this week,” Cauley said.
Norton also briefed the full board on a meeting recently held with officials of Schnabel Engineering, (which is the firm the county has tapped to design the dam), and lake consultant Wm. Thomas Craig.
Norton said that the meeting was productive and outlined who would be responsible for overseeing the project going forward.
“Laura (Benz of Craig’s office) will be the one who coordinates with all of the agencies and Schnabel will have a project manager responsible for the dam,” Norton said.
The board had sought Craig’s advice on whether the county needed to hire a project manager for the lake project. Norton says the meeting confirmed that a full-time project manager is not needed at this phase of the project.
Norton also said he discussed with Craig a monthly retainer or continuing with hourly charges. According to Commissioner Norton, Craig indicated it would be more economical for the county to pay hourly rates rather than a monthly retainer since the demand for service would begin to decrease as the project moved forward.
During the special called meeting this week, the board unanimously voted to accept the bid of $31,070 from Metro Engineering and Surveying of Hampton Georgia to provide an airborne LiDAR survey of the lake project site.
Bids were solicited for the topographical survey by Schnabel Engineering and the board acted on their recommendation to go with the low bidder.
“Is this about what we expected,” Commissioner Elwyn Childs asked.
County Attorney Cauley said it was actually a little less than projected.

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