Commissioners approve $13.5 million loan for new law enforcement complex

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016

COLUMBUS – Polk County commissioners unanimously approved a $13.5 million installment financing agreement on the new law enforcement complex to be completed near Milliken by the end of 2017.

During the board of commissioners meeting held Monday, Oct. 3, county commissioners authorized the delivery of a deed of trust to Capital One Public Funding, LLC for the disbursing of a $13.5 million loan. The agreement detailed the installments for which the county would have to pay biannually on April 1 and October 1 for the next 15 years through 2031.

The county agreed to pay $545,538.02 twice a year on the loan until October 1, 2031 with a 2.58 percent nominal annual interest rate. By this date, the county will have paid off the loan with an additional $2,866,140.60 in interest on top of the $13.5 million, bringing the grand total payment to $16,366,140.60 after the 15-year time period.

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During the September commissioners meeting, it was announced that one bid only was received from Capital One Public Funding, LLC out of the 37 requests for proposals to other financial institutions. Chairman Michael Gage moved to approve a resolution to make certain findings and determinations regarding the installment plan, which county commissioner Ray Gasperson seconded.

Also at the commissioners’ September meeting, Amy Vitner, managing director of First Tryon Securities, LLC, presented information on the installment financing agreement in the principal amount not to exceed $13.5 million. Vitner told commissioners the Capital One bid includes no additional fees as well as the county being able to pay off the loan early with no penalties after eight years. Commissioners agreed to purchase two parcels of land just outside Columbus earlier this year to construct a new, 60-bed jail and sheriff’s office. The total acreage is almost 22 acres, which the county is purchasing for $2,075,000.

The closing of the large parcel, which is off Hwy. 108 adjacent to Milliken, has not yet been finalized. Polk County attorney Jana Berg said the closing date is expected to be on or around October 31.

Polk County resident Sarah Gary attended the public hearing and meeting Monday night. Gary said commissioners should take the planning and location of the new law enforcement complex into reconsideration before approving the loan agreement and said it is “nonsense” the current jail cannot be renovated.

Gary also added that the location of the complex once completed would not be good for child development, as she said children going to school could see the jail along Hwy. 108 through Columbus, which she said is the entryway into town. She also asked what would happen to the old courthouse in the center of town once the new one is built near the new jail complex, stating a $1.5 million renovation was done to the current courthouse in 2008.

A referendum for people in the county to voice their opinions on the construction of the new complex, asking whether residents of the county want to either fund the jail or put money into education, was suggested by Gary during her comments and she cited the lack of community events going on around the county and in schools as the reason why people end up in jail.

In response to Gary’s concerns, Gasperson said the whole planning process for the new jail complex has been a journey for him too, saying he tried to figure out every way to avoid spending $13.5 million on a new complex.

Gasperson said when he and county manager Marche Pittman went to look at the current sheriff’s office and jail in April they both realized how extensive the renovations to the building would need to be due to infractions made by inspectors over the years to the point where the state could have come in to shut the jail down.

He added that he is concerned about the health and safety of the citizens and inmates. Gasperson said the most compelling reason to do something about the current jail situation is there is no fire sprinkler system available in the building.  Rather than install an expensive sprinkler system, he said relocating the jail is the best option because of liability risks in the case of injuries to the inmates.

Gasperson also said the new jail complex is surrounded by trees and would not be visible from either Hwy. 108 or Park Street as residents come through town, and said the current plan for the construction of the jail and future courthouse is the most proven path to take.

Construction Bids

Pittman also presented four construction bids on the new jail complex during the commissioners meeting, but no action was taken. Polk County opened their bids last week, and commissioners said they hoped the budget ordinance could be decreased so that the county would not need to borrow as much as $13.5 million.

The construction bids are as follows: a $9,961,000 bid from Beam Construction out of Cherryville, N.C., a $9,878,000 bid from Cooper Construction out of Flat Rock, N.C., a $10,523,000 bid out of H&M Construction in Asheville, N.C., and a $9,881,250 bid from Hickory Construction out of Hickory, N.C.

Pittman said the county was looking for someone with commercial and government building experience, and he said Cooper Construction had the lowest bid at $9,878,000 which is significantly over the project budget of $9.034 million. He added this is the lowest bid by $3,250 compared to Hickory Construction’s bid of $9,881,250.

Through a conference call Friday, Pittman said he spoke with the architect of the jail complex and the low bidder to further reduce the cost of construction.

Commissioners meet in the R. Jay Foster Hall of Justice on the second floor of the Womack building in Columbus.