Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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January 27, 2014

Commissioners get ball rolling on restoration

Corsicana — The Navarro County Commissioners Court discussed several items dealing with the courthouse renovation project when the group met in regular session Monday morning. Among the items on the agenda was how to finance the bonds, and Don Gonzales, of Estrada and Hinojosa, investment bankers, presented several scenarios of how that could be done.

Voters approved issuing $7.5 million in bond debt to help pay for the renovation. The county has also received a $4.4 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission to help fund the project, along with a $1 million grant from the Navarro Community Foundation, and other restoration donations.

His recommendation to the commissioners was a 20-year-finance deal with a private bank at 4 percent or less interest rate. Longer terms could be negotiated but it would push the interest rates higher, Gonzales warned.

If a local bank is amenable, the deal could go through as quickly as April, he said. If the bankers have to take it to the public market, it could take two months longer, Gonzales said.

The first year for payments would be 2015, and the county would need to come up with about $500,000 to keep the tax rate from going up that year to cover the interest or raise tax rates by about 2.36 cents.

The county doesn’t intend to raise the tax rate, but wants to use part of the donation from the Navarro Community Foundation to buffer that, said County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr.

By going with a longer-term note, the county would be able to save about $50,000 a year in payments, but would pay much more over the long term, Gonzales said.

“The county’s position is excellent to move right now and take advantage of these interest rates. Interest rates are very attractive still,” he said. “My guess is you’re looking at about 3.87 percent.”

The commissioners voted to authorize Gonzales to begin talking to local lenders, including Prosperity and Community National.

A final contract for Cody Muldner was approved as the project manager for the renovation. Muldner is a Blooming Grove native, who’s been doing renovation projects in other locations. His hiring was approved in December 2013.

The commissioners also approved advertising for bids for the move into a temporary courthouse, most likely at the Navarro Centre, the former Navarro Mall.

It was recommended by Precinct 1 Commissioner Jason Grant that jail trustys be used for moving non-sensitive items, such as furniture, to save some money. Sheriff Elmer Tanner said he’d be happy to help in any way that wouldn’t jeopardize public safety or risk the inmates.

The commissioners also voted to advertise for bids to build-out the temporary space at the mall. The county is discussing having the mall do the construction to accommodate the county government’s special needs, such as constructing vaults or safe rooms for documents, and adding the cost into the monthly rent. However, it may become more cost effective to build it themselves, commissioners acknowledged. Hence, the advertising for bids.

Commissioners also hired the renovation architectural firm, 1113 Architects, to draw up some firm designs for the temporary spaces. The county has some conceptual drawings now, but they’re pretty vague and have some practical issues that department heads would like clarified.

County Clerk Sherry Dowd and Tommy Pryor, technical director, both asked that the officeholders have some input in what was finally accepted, according to their individual office’s needs, and that was acknowledged as necessary.

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