County borrows millions

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By The Staff



Roane County Commission has given its stamp of approval for the county to borrow several million dollars for a number of capital projects and the refinancing of outstanding debt.

All together, the county’s loans will be around $8.8 million. Morgan Keegan representative Scott P. Gibson said that money includes about $3.4 million in new debt and refinancing about $5.4 million in old debt, including a number of capital outlay notes.

Commissioners were not unanimous in their votes for the loans.

Several commissioners took issue last week about the manner in which the debts were sought. They referred to a number of items included in the resolution that hadn’t yet been approved as expenditures.

“Normally we approve expenditures and then we borrow money,” Commissioner David Olsen said.

He vowed not to approve the resolutions to borrow money because it wasn’t normal procedure.

“It is a matter of principal,” he added.

Commissioner David Currier said he believed a number of items were too vague, such as funds for nonprofit entities.

He also expressed displeasure with not having an itemized list of what the money would go toward.

“The resolution is written to be very broad,” explained Alva Moore, the county’s director of accounts and budget.

Moore said the resolution was drafted in broad terms so the county officials could appropriate money as they see fit.

“We’re voting for money that hasn’t been appropriated,” Currier maintained.

Moore said about $860,000 of the projects are in this year’s budget.

Added are $540,000 to buy new radios for emergency personnel, $100,000 for a new hazardous materials vehicle, about $300,000 for sewer plant rehabilitation and $500,000 to buy school buses.

County Executive Mike Farmer said the county applied for a grant for the sewer work, including the needed repair of a pump station near Bob’s Burgers in Midtown, and county officials hope to use the $300,000 loan as a match.

If the county is unsuccessful in obtaining the grant, work on the system will have to be cut considerably, he said.

Big items to be financed with the loan money include work on public buildings and facilities,  including the courthouse, schools, public utilities, public recreational facilities, parks and jail.

“Most of it is equipment and not construction,” Farmer said.

Farmer said some of the projects they are exploring include repairing the courthouse’s back porch area. Also being looked at are repairs at the juvenile detention facility and improvements at Roane County Park.

The county is providing matching funds to a grant for park improvements. They include a splash pad, an area for children’s water play involving sprinklers and no standing water.

“It is a well-used park and a beautiful place to go in Roane County,” Farmer said.

Other items and projects to be financed include equipment, computers and the sharing of proceeds, if necessary, with Oak Ridge for school purposes.

Also included is about $1 million for paving.

Farmer explained that Roane County Road Supervisor Tom Hamby borrowed $1 million once before and was able to pay it back using the state money from gas sales.