BOC to seek $5 million loan for jail
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Madison County commissioners agreed Tuesday to seek a $5 million loan to fund the expansion of the county jail.
The group doesn’t want to wait six years before expanding the county jail, noting that waiting will only lead to higher construction costs in years to come due to inflation. Board members say interest costs associated with a loan will be offset by savings in construction costs.
“Building materials alone will make it a wash,” said Commissioner Wesley Jordan, when comparing the cost of interest on a loan versus increased construction costs.
County voters approved a one-cent, six-year sales tax in February, which is expected to bring in $12.6 million.
The BOC tagged $3.3 million for the jail expansion, but that won’t cover the entire cost of doubling the jail’s capacity, which is estimated at $4.5 million to $5 million.
Wachovia representatives recently presented financing options for county sales tax projects, informing the BOC members that they could get the $3.3 million up front, but that they would have to pay $436,000 in interest over the next six years.
The bank representatives provided figures for financing all county sales tax projects, but the BOC discussed making the jail the only project financed through a loan or, more specifically, a “lease/purchase agreement,” which means the bank would actually hold the title on the project until it was paid off.
“I think we should borrow money to complete the jail only,” suggested Commissioner John Pethel, noting that the other sales tax projects could be completed as the sales tax pennies accumulate over the next six years.
Commission Chairman Wesley Nash said he agreed with the suggestion that the board only finance the jail project.
“I don’t know how we can take another bite out of the apple and serve the community without raising taxes,” said Nash. “I’d love to fund these other projects, but it’s just too costly.”
Nash said the county will have to find a way to finance the shortfall in the jail project the difference between the $3.3 million in allocated sales tax funding and the projected $4.5 million to $5 million cost of the expansion.
He suggested that the county establish a $5 million line of credit through a lease/purchase plan with Wachovia. The chairman also suggested that the commissioners try to whittle away the “bells and whistles” on the jail plans.
“It had a lot of frills,” said Nash of the jail plans, noting a proposed training room.
The board agreed to hold a work session to discuss the jail project and to determine what might be cut from the plans. No date was set for that meeting.
Commissioners Mike Youngblood, Stanley Thomas and Wesley Jordan pointed out that the recreation department did not receive any sales tax funding in 2003. They said they don’t want to see recreation expansion plans, which include new soccer fields, an irrigation pond and walking trails, put on the backburner over the next six years. Youngblood suggested that the board allocate $300,000 out of the $5 million toward the recreation expansion.