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Halifax County Supes move to borrow last big sum, $10 million, for courthouse

South Boston News / September 05, 2019
With major revisions to the original plan finally complete, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors has agreed to borrow roughly another $10 million to finance the reconstruction of the Halifax County Courthouse.

“I think we’re now in a place where we’ve got the full costs [of the project] quantified,” Ted Cole, financial advisor with Davenport & Co., told board members at their monthly meeting Tuesday in Halifax.

Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize a loan application to the Virginia Resources Authority for an amount not to exceed $12.5 million, at what is expected to be a 3 percent interest rate. The borrowing comes on top of a prior bond obligation of $16.7 million, taken out by the county in 2016. The VRA is the state’s lending pool for local government capital projects.

While the resolution passed by supervisors allows for borrowing of up to $12.5 million, Cole said county has stashed away about $2.5 million in reserves which can be used to lower the state loan request to around $10 million.

He recommended taking this approach, and supervisors agreed.

County Administrator Scott Simpson said the capital reserve — created through passage of a 2-cent real estate tax increase in 2015 — reflects “the discipline of the county” in preparing to repay the courthouse debt.

Simpson said tapping the capital reserve to bring down any additional borrowing request “is an appropriate use of those funds.” Furthermore, since the tax hike was explicitly tied to courthouse renovations, it’s “pretty likely the only use of those funds,” said Simpson.

“There has been some discipline by the Board of Supervisors for the past many years that allowed for this approach,” Simpson said of the reduced loan request.

The good news in this latest application to VRA, added Cole, is that no additional tax revenues will be needed to support what he called a “completion request” to the state.

The need for more borrowing comes after the county’s plans for renovating the historic but tattered courthouse ran into the reality of structures that were too foregone to successfully rehabilitate.

The courthouse renovation budget took a sharp turn for the worse with a $9 million change order by general contractor Blair Construction to completely rebuild the courthouse annex — home to General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court — and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

County supervisors had sought to renovate the annex before work to the building revealed its compromised state. Supervisors also abandoned the idea of renovating the prosecutor’s building as it became obvious that it, too, could not be saved.

Both structures have since been demolished and their functions will be consolidated inside the new building rising up in back of the 1830s-era courthouse.

Construction of the new building and renovations to the old courthouse are going well, Simpson told supervisors Tuesday night, with crews busy at the courthouse square carrying the project forward.

Cole said that the setbacks up to this point have come with a “silver lining”: the county’s second-round debt request falls at a time when conditions are favorable for borrowers.

Describing financial markets over the past few years as “volatile,” Cole said Halifax County heads into the fall round of VRA lending with the opportunity to lock in “very attractive rates, at or very near to what you borrowed in 2016.”

The county is “in a very good spot,” with “significantly lower interest rates than what we were looking at when we were doing our planning work for this project,” Cole said.

The application deadline to the VRA is Sept. 20, and it will take about a month before the agency sells bonds to raise capital, the point when Halifax County will learn exactly what rate of interest it will pay on the debt.

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So the 10-12 million promised by BOS and county government years ago has now more than doubled to 27 million. An the gullible people wanting a new high school, how much more than the 90 million for a new one will be? I am so sick of the local government thinking the people of the county are stupid and I am more disappointed in the voters that fall for these lies and smoke an mirrors. Vote no for new taxes only vote for people on local boards that will promise not to raise taxes.


They think were stupid. "County is in a much better place. We areonly paying 3% on an extra $10mil". Is that all?


The enormous grammatical error in that last comment truly says it all....

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