BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the Board of Commissioners (BOC) with a new option for financing the remaining balance of the new Fire Station One and E-911 center being constructed on Windy Ridge Road.
At the Feb. 27 BOC meeting, discussion was brought up about how to finance the remaining balance to construct this new facility.
“We knew we would have to borrow some funds,” Helton said at this meeting. “We felt that we could finance out of pocket about 75 percent.”
The BOC, under former county commission Chairman Bill Simonds, had agreed to a budget of $2.5 million to complete this project, but bids came in higher than projected.
Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explained, “We really didn’t know until we got the bids last year, there were two of them, and we didn’t open those bids, I believe, until the last meeting in May, and the low bid with all the factors in there was $3 million. Almost exactly that number.”
“It’s not that we spent more money. We just did a contract that was a little bit more money than they had originally estimated it was going to cost,” Gazaway further clarified.
At the February BOC meeting, Gazaway revealed that she had been looking into possible ways to finance the difference between the approved amount and the contract and told commissioners that she had been in contact with bond companies for possible loan information.
Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson made it very clear that for him this was not an option: ““I’m not in favor of getting a bond.”
After more research, Gazaway presented the BOC at the March 27 meeting with an interest-free loan option. This option would essentially allow the county to borrow money from itself via the general fund.
“Legally, the auditors have approved this,” Helton said of the new loan option.
To complete the project, the county would need to borrow approximately $650,000 from the general fund. By going this route, Gazaway explained that it would save the county roughly $100,000 in interest and an additional $30,000 in fees.
Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee pointed out that the need to come up with the extra funding is more urgent since the completion date of the project is expected to be June of this year, and the initial completion date was scheduled for September or October.
“This is far and above the best option we have to finish the station,” Helton shared his thoughts with the board.
“I think the only way to do it is interest-free,” Johnson agreed, “and we are using the county’s money to build a county facility while maintaining our fund balance.”
Johnson stressed that paying back the loan and balancing county funds would need to be a priority in this transaction.
All three commissioners expressed favor for pursuing this option but tabled the item for an additional two weeks to allow more research to be done on ways in which the loan will be repaid.
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