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Officials look at project cost options

Saturday, July 26, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM

Officials look at project cost options

FONDA -- Even with funding from the state, county officials said they expect to have to finance some portion of the $3.4 million relocation and expansion project.

Executive Matthew Ossenfort said they are prepared to do that over the next six years by including the project as a priority into the long-term capital project plan currently being drafted.

However, how to fund the entire project should stte funding fall through is another story.

"It is going to be more difficult if we don't get the financing, but it is my top priority, and we will cross that bridge when we get there," Ossenfort said. "If it doesn't happen, we will have to assess the situation, and talk with the legislature. We are going to have to sit down and come up with a game plan. It is something we need to do."

Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush, who has been a strong advocate for vacating the county annex building, said he couldn't speak about the funding since it is handled by Ossenfort.

"Cost is always a concern but I can't speak about hypotheticals," he said, adding legislators would have to wait until the project came before them for approval.

The county is already $27.4 million, in debt and is currently paying $4.3 million a year in principle and interest for outstanding bonds for projects dating back to the early 2000s. While some of that bill is budgeted for, some of it is paid for through taxpayers dollars.

According to the current-year budget passed late last year, the county is paying off six projects with outstanding bond amounts ranging from $805,000 to $6.1 million. One bond is expected to be paid off as soon as 2016, which was for a capital project at the county jail.

The remaining five bonds aren't expected to be paid off until after 2020. The bonds are for road and bridge projects dating back to the 2000s, along with the 2011 land acquisition for the Florida Park Development.

With the expansion to the public safety building and other projects coming down the pipeline as early as next year, the debt could go higher.

However, Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said previously the county is limited as to how much debt it can accrue. Current borrowing stands at 18 percent of the debt limit.

"We are in good place with the debt ratio," Ossenfort said. "Any funding we can get from the state will help lower the amount we would have to borrow."

Ossenfort said he was optimistic the state would come through, stating the county was able to move forward on several projects last year with help from the state.

-- Nicole Antonucci

     

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