County takes next step in construction

Jeremy Styron-News-Herald
After an hour long discussion about when to issue the remaining $2 million loan to complete phase one of the Loudon County Schools construction plan, Loudon County Commission on Monday approved the project and scheduled a special called meeting to address potential savings related to the debt.

Joe Ayres, with Cumberland Securities, floated a plan to commission that would allow the county to attach a $2 million bond to combine Loudon Elementary School and Fort Loudoun Middle School to the $10 million the county already approved to complete funding for the original $43 million allocation.

Ayres said the county could pay off $1.2 million of the debt in 30 days and would only have to pay $10,000 in interest to retire the remaining debt in 13 months. He said the plan allowed the county to satisfy numerous goals at once.

"You've kept the fund balance from growing more, which was one of your goals and objectives - actually, it's to get it down some - you've minimized the interest expense associated with the $2 million, and you've not jeopardized the remaining $9 million of the $11 million that you were mentioning."

Commissioner Don Miller said the county faced a "timing issue" related to school construction saying Mayor Estelle Herron's office needed the $10 million by June 1 to begin making payments.

"We really need to get this thing going right away so that it can be implemented during the summertime when the kids are not in those two schools," Miller said.

Ayres said the option of issuing the $2 million alongside the $10 million would save the county significant money in interest and other expenses related to taking out two separate loans.

"Really, you're paying yourself back because if you wait and don't do this you've got your own fund balance sitting in the bank, and it's not really earning anything as the county trustee can certainly tell you," Ayres said.

Purchasing Director Tracy Blair said that from a fund balance standpoint, either option - issuing the $2 million now or waiting until a later date - would work. She said the school board would likely request an additional $9 million for other school renovation projects.

Loudon County Schools has considered adding an additional wing to address crowding at Loudon High School and moving the administrative office to the front of the school, renovating parts of Highland Park Elementary School and fixing traffic concerns at North Middle and Eaton Elementary schools.

"It's not like the funds will be wasted," Blair said. "We will be issuing debt at some point and time for that probably not in the too distant future, so either way will work as far as fund balances are concerned."

Ayres said holding off on issuing the $2 million now would come with some negative consequences.

"If you delay the authorization of the bond resolution then that probably precludes us from piggybacking it with the $9.5 million to meet the mayor's date of no later than June 1," he said. "If you go ahead and authorize the bond resolution this evening, we can let all the parties know that it's potentially going to be added on, then we can keep going down the path. We can always subtract from a bond issue; it's harder to add to a bond issue at the last moment."

Commission voted 9-0 to authorize the mayor to issue the $2 million bond, and then, in a separate vote, approved the Loudon Elementary and Fort Loudoun Middle school combination project. Commissioner Brian Jenkins was absent.

The county will hold the special called meeting to discuss attaching the $2 million to the $10 million loan at 7 p.m. April 15 after commission's monthly workshop.

In other business, the board:

* Heard an update from Loudon County Property Assessor Mike Campbell, who said property reassessment notices should be in the mail by Friday. The property assessor's office will conduct hearings on Monday, and they will run for two weeks. He said during this year's assessments, 7,425 parcels were going up in assessed value, while 22,479 were on the decline. A little less than 3,000 pieces of property saw no changes. A judge will hear appeals from Tate & Lyle and Kimberly-Clark in mid-August.

* Reappointed Ted Wampler Jr. and Steve Field to the Loudon County Solid Waste Commission with terms expiring in March 2019. Jenkins will also serve on the board to replace Ted Sitzlar, who recently resigned. Jenkins' term will expire in March 2017.

* Approved the appointment of Loudon County Schools current administrative assistant and secretary Joan Lovelace as the county's new purchasing director to replace Leo Bradshaw, who is set to retire at the end of June. Lovelace will start the job July 1.

* Adopted stormwater/water management regulations for urbanized areas of Loudon County.
Loudon County Planning and Codes Enforcement Director Russ Newman said the county needed to approve the regulations to comply with state guidelines.

"Basically the purpose of the regulation is the county is expected to issue permits on properties that are being developed inside what's called the urbanized area of Loudon County for any properties where the grading is going to exceed an acre or more," Newman said. "And basically those properties are expected to have stormwater management plans that comply with the regulation."

Miller said the stormwater regulation was an example of "overreach" and "micromanagement" on the part of the federal government.

* Designated April 20 as Public Library Day to coincide with the official dedication of the Public Library at Tellico Village on the same date.

* Approved a Jane L. Pettway Foundation grant application for Lenoir City Library for $2,000, which includes no matching funds.

* Accepted a $2,500 donation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee to go toward the Loudon County government wellness incentive program.