County bond proposal passes first reading

The Laurens County Council voted unanimously at its July 23 meeting to approve first reading on a $4 million bond to finance repairs at the Historic County Courthouse and the county offices and judicial complex at Hillcrest.

In addition to the $4 million for those projects, County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks recommended to council members that they also refinance the remaining $3.5 million of the 2010 bond the county used to build the Johnson Detention Center.

“If we refinance the jail bond with our new favorable bond rating, we can get a very low interest rate,” Cruickshanks said. “We’re pretty sure we’re looking at around a $100,000 savings.”

Thanks to the county’s improved financial rating issued by Moody’s Investor Service, the county can receive an interest rate that could sit at 1.7% or lower, Cruickshanks said.

The current interest on the jail bond is at 3.5%, he said.

Earlier this month, County Administrator Jon Caime announced that Moody’s had given Laurens County an “A1” rating and removed the “negative outlook” tag it had attached to the county finances around two years ago.

The $4 million bond is to include $3.3 million to replace the roof and HVAC system at Hillcrest and $700,000 to “stabilize” damage and decay at the Historic County Courthouse.

After approving first reading on the bond, council members received a report on the Laurens County Library HVAC system, which could cost $300,000-$500,000 to replace.

Four of the library’s six air conditioning units failed recently, forcing the closure of the library to patrons two weeks ago as temperatures climbed near 100 degrees.

Laurens County Director of Public Works Dale Satterfield said the 30-year-old system is in need of replacement and with improved efficiency the county would see a return on its six-figure investment in 10 years.

“With one unit, we are having to fabricate a part because of a broken shaft,” Satterfield said. “The part is unavailable, and the units are obsolete.”

Council gave Satterfield permission to request bids to replace 484 light fixtures inside the library with more modern, efficient lighting as well preliminary bidding on replacement of the HVAC units.

Satterfield said the county would see a return on investment on the lighting in about two years.

The refinancing of the jail bond would bring the total to $7.5 million as presented, but the bond could be expanded to include the lighting and HVAC system at the library.

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