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LCDA OKs building renovations, bond refinancing
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The Liberty County Development Authority approved refinancing one bond debt into a tax-exempt bond at a lower interest rate and an $8,125 bid for repairs to one of its Hinesville Technology Park facilities during its meeting Monday.

“This is just a resolution approving the conversion of some of our debt into tax-exempt obligations. As you remember, there’s essentially a $10 million cap each year,” LCDA attorney Kelly Davis told the board.

When the group restructured roughly $25 million of debt last summer through SunTrust, it put as much as possible into tax-exempt loans. Now, the group is converting one bond worth $1.2 million from a taxable bond with 6 percent interest into a tax-exempt bond with a 3.93-interest rate.

Another $7.2 million bond will be converted to tax-exempt, and its term will be lengthened from seven to 20 years. It will retain a 3 percent interest rate.

“Of course, the result of that is you’re going to save a considerable amount of money throughout the life of the loan … several thousand dollars,” Davis added.

Chairman Allen Brown and board members Robert Stokes, Brian Smith and Jim McIver unanimously approved the resolution. Members Paul Krebs, Jim Thomas and Al Williams were not present.

At the end of the meeting, Carmen Cole, LCDA director of finance and administration, updated the board on the status of the audit for the 2011 fiscal year, which is a requirement of the group’s agreement with SunTrust.

Because the LCDA’s fiscal year runs from July 1-June 30, the audit should have been completed Dec. 31, in accordance with the terms of the debt settlement, Cole said. The agreement states that an annual audit is to be conducted within 180 days of the end of a fiscal year.

However, Cole said software obstacles and a heavy workload made it impossible for her to finish the audit by that deadline. She hopes to have it submitted to the auditor within the next two weeks.
Smith, who serves as the board secretary, told Cole and LCDA CEO Ron Tolley that the audit needs to be completed and the problems have to be prevented in the future.

“We need to get this thing finished up, just so we have the right records and we can disclose to the public so everybody knows where we are,” he said.

Tolley said one of the greatest obstacles is a lack of personnel, which stems from a board decision not to fill a vacant finance position. Consequently, work that once was completed by two people has fallen onto Cole because others in the office are not able to handle finances.

The board agreed that its executive committee will meet to assess possible solutions, such as outsourcing bill pay, to address the finance workload.

The board also unanimously approved a bid for repair to the former BioAgra building, which will have a new tenant, the German tea company Florapharm, beginning March 1.

LCDA project manager Jessica Hood said the staff contacted eight contractors to seek proposals, and six responded. Of the six, only two attended a mandatory pre-bid conference at the location, and only one business, A.C.E. Coastal Builder, submitted a bid of $8,125.

The repairs will get the building back in shape after the removal of manufacturing equipment that BioAgra installed. Work includes capping water and electrical mains, patching exterior walls and the roof, removing a concrete retaining wall and platforms, grinding uneven floor surfaces and painting affected areas.

Board members also discussed a request from the Liberty County Convention & Visitors Bureau that the LCDA void two invoices for prior year expenses.

The issue arose when the CVB, which rents space in the LCDA building and had an agreement to cover the partial salary for a receptionist/office assistant, sent a notification to terminate the employment contract. With the notification was a request for invoice for period of July 1 to Dec. 31.

While compiling the data for the invoice, Cole realized a billing error had occurred during the first half of 2011 and reviewed the records since the beginning of the contract to confirm.

During her review, Cole found two errors, one that had been shortened by $197.13 in 2009, and a 2010 error shortened by $1,140.05.

In a letter to the LCDA, CVB Chairwoman Sandra Martin requested that the invoices be waived because the billing entity made the errors, and because the issue should have been corrected long ago.

However, during discussions, Cole reminded the board that the CVB was “consistently in arrears because of an internal issue” between 2009 and 2011, but that the LCDA did not charge interest on many of the delayed payments. Had they assessed interest, it would have almost doubled the amount in question now, Cole said.

Members agreed to have Cole write a response to the CVB reminding them of the possible interest situation with the request that they pay the $1,337.18 in exchange for the interest being forgiven.

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