Portage to build on sale of bonds

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Portage County Commissioners authorized the sale of bonds Wednesday, which will fund several multi-million dollar building projects, including a new headquarters for the county engineer, renovation of the county courthouse, and expansion of the county juvenile detention facility.

"This county has not made significant capital improvements, except for the jail, since the '70s," said Commissioner Chris Smeiles. "Much of it's 20 years overdue."

The county has had no general fund debt since at least 1991.

"The last major borrowing was for turning the county hospital into the county administration building in the mid 1970s," and building the juvenile court and detention facility in Shalersville, said Commissioner Chuck Keiper.

"Since then there have been no significant upgrades," Keiper said.

The bonds will pay for the second phase of the courthouse renovation. The first phase was paid for through the 0.25-percent county sales tax. That tax is funding the jail renovation and building of the county justice center, and will be removed when that debt is retired.

No tax increase will be needed to repay the new bonds, Keiper said, because of growth in the county's tax revenues.

Commissioners and Auditor Janet Esposito signed agreements Thursday afternoon, selling the bonds to Banc One Capital Corporation. Bank One Trust Company, N.A. of Columbus is serving as agent and bond registrar.

Ivan Otto of Squires, Sanders and Dempsey, the county's bond counsel, and Robert Cramer of Banc One Capital Corp., said Portage County received very favorable interest rates on the sale. Rates will vary from 3.95 to 5.25 percent over the life of the bonds.

Interest payments will average 5.09 percent, or a little less than $1 million per year, over the 20-year life of the bonds.

In addition to county taxes, other revenue sources will help pay back the bonds. For example, the county engineer's revenues will be tapped to pay part of the cost for that facility. And sewer and water rates will help repay $2.67 million in bonds being used as permanent financing for completed sewer and water projects, and $1.5 million for construction and renovation of sewer and water lines.

Keiper noted the county went with general obligation rather than revenue bonds for the sewer and water projects to cut costs.

"It was cheaper to go with general obligation rather than revenue bonds because that way we didn't have to pay two issuing costs, two rating costs and other charges," Keiper said.

The general obligation bonds will be used for a variety of capital projects including:

$3.5 million for the second phase renovation of the county courthouse in Ravenna;

$3.75 million for a county engineer's headquarters to be built in Ravenna Township east of S.R. 14;

$2.47 million for expansion of the Juvenile Court and Detention Center on Infirmary Road;

$1.286 million will go for renovations to the county administration building, including replacing its three elevators;

$263,800 to pay for central air conditioning and new windows for the administration building annex which currently houses the county prosecutor's office;

$895,000 to pay for renovation and addition to the county Water Resources Department's laboratory building on Infirmary Road.

Renovation of the administration annex has started, and work on the water laboratory is set to begin this month. The larger projects will begin later this year or early next spring. Keiper estimated it will take about three years to complete all the planned projects.

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