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County votes to refinance bonds on DHR building

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Commission unanimously voted Monday to essentially refinance more than $9 million left on a series of bonds used to build the Georgia Department of Human Resources building on Oglethorpe Boulevard.

An Albany Tomorrow Inc. project that initially cost the county $14 million in 1999, the building currently is leased by the state from the county, which covers the debt payments on the property, Dougherty County Commission Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said.

"That's really the only debt we have," he said. "But the state pays us to use the building, so we essentially break even without the taxpayers being impacted."

The commission voted Monday to accept an offer from Merchant Capital, the company currently in possession of the debt, to refinance the bonds and shave 3 percent off the interest payments, which will save the county an estimated $500,000.

The deal will not extend the debt period, which is set to be paid by 2016.

"This is a bit of an unusual set of circumstances when you're able to trim off 3 percent of the interest without extending the life of the debt," Merchant Capital Vice President Jamie Wilson said. "It's a good deal."

Wilson said Merchant Capital is willing to pay the county $250,000 of the $500,000 in savings at closing of the new bond issuance, which will be in March.

That money will be used immediately for capital improvements and repairs on the 10-year-old building, County Administrator Richard Crowdis said.

"That money will be put into a reserve fund we have specifically created for maintenance costs on the building," Crowdis told the commission.

The additional $250,000 will be given to the county in monthly installments, which will also be placed into the maintenance reserve fund, Crowdis said.

"It's a no-brainer," Finance Committee member Chuck Lingle said. "We save some money without extending the debt. It's a good idea."

The "value engineering," done on the building by ATI and requested by state specifications -- as coined by one of the committee members -- has led to the building needing certain repairs.

County engineering staff told the committee that additions and repairs to the heating and cooling system were needed and requested that an engineer make a walk-through of the property.

Other ATI-built buildings have also fallen into early disrepair. The county voted in September to spend $190,000 to repair the leaky exterior to its Central Services Building, which was built by ATI seven years ago.

The Flint RiverQuarium, billed as the jewel of downtown development on ATI's Web site, is also in the midst of repairing its heating and cooling system. A temporary unit has been sitting on a sidewalk near the building's entrance for weeks.

The bond issuance will be carried out through the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, which will serve as a conduit for the $9 million bond issuance.

The ADICA board will meet Wednesday and likely discuss the issue, Crowdis said. He and Wilson will be on hand to address the board if needed.