County Readies $8m Bond

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The $8 million bond Gila County will float to pay for new buildings makes good business sense, county officials say, despite minor protests from some county employees who consider it a shopping spree.

Public Works Director Steve Stratton said 21 contractors have expressed interest in building a $769,000 women’s detention center bundled in the project, which illustrated how the industry slowdown translated into good timing for the county.

“It’s the perfect time,” Stratton said. Supervisors adopted a resolution officially declaring their intent to float the bond Tuesday.

In all, the county will complete $9 million worth of projects with $1 million of that coming from state highway funds. Spending includes $5.6 million for a new public works headquarters, $935,000 to buy the Highway 260 administration building in Payson the county now leases, $1.4 million in debt refinancing, and a $288,000 contingency fund.

The new 40-bed jail will alleviate intense overcrowding. The current jail has 18 beds, while an average of 34 females slept there each night in 2007.

To accommodate all the women, officers have placed temporary beds and mattresses on the floor.

The sheriff’s department has been forced to release prisoners because of overcrowding, Stratton said, although the exact numbers were unavailable before press time.

Monthly bills could actually decrease after the bond because repayments could cost less than existing lease and loan payments combined, Stratton said.

New buildings will allow various departments to live in county-owned buildings instead of rentals.

The public works department, now scattered among several buildings, will consolidate into one building.

“It’ll just make us more efficient,” Stratton said, especially having the road yard and shop together. “If a piece of equipment breaks down, they have to bring it all the way across town to get it fixed,” Stratton said.

Indirect benefits lurk beneath the obvious ones like the expanded landfill capacity that will come after public works’ sign department leaves its building, Stratton said.

The county’s bond rating will heavily influence interest rates.

The 20-year timeline could fetch an interest rate around 5 percent. Stratton said the county based its financial projections on a worst-case 5.5 percent interest rate.

Next week, the county will enter into bond rating discussions. Stratton said the rating could range from A to AA.

Mark Reader, managing director with Stone & Youngberg LLC, a financial services firm, said the county has a good debt-to-income ratio, which should please rating agencies.

Some county employees are “concerned” with the new spending given their stagnant salaries, said Supervisor Mike Pastor.

“No one has been furloughed or is working less hours,” replied Supervisor Shirley Dawson, who has led the effort among supervisors to build a new women’s jail in Globe. One lawsuit resulting from the overcrowded jails could cost more than the new jail, she said.

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