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.
New phone system discussed
The Navarro County Commissioners Court conducted two separate meetings Monday, one in the morning, and a special meeting in the afternoon to specifically address the phone problems at the courthouse, justice center, and emergency center.
At the afternoon meeting, the commissioners voted to go ahead and get a new phone system from Avaya Systems. The county will still need to see a contract and approve that later.
The company has proposed a system that’s just shy of $50,000, which will upgrade the backbone of the county’s system, along with putting new phones in the Justice Center, and will also work with the old Nortel system until the county employees move to a temporary location during the impending courthouse reconstruction.
That price won’t be the total cost, of course. The county will still need to shell out about between $23,370 and $30,780 for the courthouse phones — depending on whether the employees go bare bones, or get the higher-end models.
One nice feature is that once the new phones are on-line and programmed, the employees can move them easily — unplug, carry, plug in again — which means moving back into the courthouse will be a cinch, explained Doug McIlvaine, an Avaya dealer.
He said the phones would work from anywhere there’s Internet capability.
The current Nortel system, which was actually installed in 2005, not the 1990s, according to Brett Latta, has become problematic and some features like voice mail and recordings no longer work reliably. The new Avaya software will bring those features back on-line in the interim.
The maintenance costs for the system will be about $14,000 a year, according to rough estimates.
Finding replacement parts for the old system has become difficult, Latta pointed out.
Tommy Pryor, the county’s technical director, said the VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system is the best option.
Cox thanked for service
Kathy Cox was recognized at the regular morning commissioner’s meeting for her 20 years in the District Clerk’s office.
Inmate health care contract OK’d
The county approved a deal with Southern Health Partners Inc. to provide health care in the Navarro County Jail. The deal will supposedly save the county about $100,000 a year. The contract will start Feb. 17.
Bridge, road actions approved
Refurbishing a bridge on SECR 4040 in Precinct 2 was approved. It will cost about $29,036 to rebuild it. Commissioners also approved closing NECR 2065. No one objected to the closing, according to Precinct 1 Commissioner Jason Grant.
No action after closed sessions
Commissioners held closed sessions to discuss personnel, real property, and pending/anticipated litigation. No action was taken after the closed sessions.