Employees to be paid by direct deposit, County Commission seeks to save money on Hayneville Plaza bonds

Published 12:12 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
With an unanimous vote, the Lowndes County Commission took steps Wednesday night, July 27, to refinance its 2011 Series Warrants (bonds) used for the original purchase of the Hayneville Plaza to generate interest savings for the county and return reserve funds to the county for general use.
The commission also voted unanimously to switch the payment method of all county employees to direct deposit, effective Oct. 1.
Barry Staples, an attorney with Maynard, Cooper & Gale explained, “The resolution and order adopted by the County Commission on Wednesday night served as a preliminary authorization for the county to issue its General Obligation Refunding Warrants, Series 2016, the proceeds of which would be used to refinance the County’s Series 2011 Warrants in order to generate present value interest savings for the County.”
He also said, “The refinancing of the Series 2011 Warrants would also return certain amounts in the Reserve Fund established for the Series 2011 Warrants to the County for general use in accordance with state law and federal tax law.”
The Commission issued $3.53 million in General Obligation Warrants, Series 2011 for the purchase of the Hayneville Plaza. The building was to be used a hub center for the South Central Alabama Broadband Cooperative District.
The SCABC was formed to own and manage a broadband communications infrastructure designed to bridge the digital divide in South Central Alabama. The original project was to construct 2,200 miles of fiber-optic broadband network in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties and was to be funded by a $59 million in federal grant money and $27 million in matching funds.
Funding to grant recipient Trillion Communications was terminated in October of 2012.
At previous commission meetings, Lowndes County Attorney Hank Sanders said the Hayneville Plaza was ”to the point that you could not insure the building because the building was in bad shape.”
He also said, “At least four or five determinations were made that it would take $800,000 to redo the building. And it wouldn’t be worth more than $800,000 once it was done.”
He also said, “The people in the building had to move because you couldn’t have insurance on it. And if something happened, the county would be exposed to a lot of liability.”
Over the objection of County Commission Chairman Robert Harris, the commission voted to sell the Hayneville Plaza for $125,000 to Bell Venues LLC of Lowndes County.
Staples said, “Additionally, the resolution and order,” approved by the commission “authorized my firm, along with the county attorney, to initiate validation proceedings with regard to the Series 2016 Warrants. Accordingly, the County Commission has decided to confirm the proposed structure and means of payment for the Series 2016 Warrants prior to their issuance. This is an entirely discretionary and prudent action by the County Commission, and is extremely common among Alabama cities and counties.”
He said, “We do not expect any legal issues.“
Staples also said upon a successful validation of the proposed Series 2016 Warrants, the County Commission would have to provide an additional approval to the final terms of the Series 2016 Warrants before their issuance.
He said the proposed calendar expects the issuance of the Series 2016 Warrants in September.
County Administrator Jackie Thomas said Sanders reviewed the resolution and all was in order.
County Engineer David Butts raised the need for direct deposit pay of employees.
He said that would eliminate the problem of employees wanting checks early saying, “I think the direct deposit just solves everything.”
He said, “When you are in the middle of something and you’ve got three or four things going on and somebody comes in your office wanting a check… that’s aggravating.”
Butts said it was his understanding, however, that the county would need to pay all county departments by direct deposit. And Sheriff John Williams told the commission, he did not have a problem with the action.
Under the heading of Consent Agenda, the commission unanimously approved:
•An appropriation to the STEP Program in the amount of $400.
•An appropriation to the Central High School Band of $500.
•An agreement with the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center for two beds.
Thomas said due to a shortfall of funds, the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center asked the county to pay an additional $4,000 which was agreed to by District Judge Adrian D. Johnson to come from the Juvenile Trust Fund.
The commission went into an executive session, but no votes were taken and no decisions made.
And Thomas reported all volunteer fire departments have turned in their use of ad valorem tax funds with the exception of Braggs and White Hall.

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