Courthouse funding proposals considered
The Morgan County Commission is now reviewing two county courthouse funding proposals that were received last week from the West Virginia Development Office.
The county is looking for about $9 million to proceed with the construction, said Commission President Glen Stotler at a press conference that he called on Friday to share news of the funding offers.
There is $3.5 million to $4 million available from insurance money to put toward courthouse construction. Some money still needs to be settled with the insurance company, said Stotler.
The cost of a three-story courthouse was estimated at $12.9 million. A two-story version would cost $9.9 million and a three-story shell would run $11 million.
The first option is a cooperative loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state Development Office. USDA would
loan Morgan County $3.5 million at 4.65% interest over 15 years. The state Development Office would also loan the county $5.7 million at 3% interest in the combination loan, for a total of $9.2 million, said Stotler.
The county would only pay the USDA portion of the loan for the first 15 years, said Stotler. After 15 years, the county would face a balloon payment of the whole debt plus interest and would have to renegotiate the loan with the USDA, the state or some other third party at that time, he said.
The county's debt service on the $3.5 million would be $325,000—the amount that the county debt service study shows we can manage, said Stotler. He had concerns about the balloon payment and leaving a future county commission with that size of a debt—$8 million plus, with interest— to manage in 15 years.
Option two is a loan for $9 million solely from the West Virginia Development Office at 3% interest. The annual debt service generated on this loan would be $455,340, an amount that the county doesn't have the ability to pay, said Stotler. There would also be a balloon payment at 10 years with this option, he said.
There are requirements built into each proposal, such as it being a design-built project and the county having to pay for the construction costs up front and be reimbursed later. They would need interim funding, said Stotler.
The county is still working with the state and the USDA and negotiating the fine points of the proposals, said Stotler. They have met with USDA
staff and are meeting with
the state Development Office officials this week, he said. Stotler was optimistic that a workable funding proposal courthouse would emerge from their talks.
"I believe we're going to make it happen somehow," said Stotler.
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USDA has been working with the county from the beginning since a couple months after the courthouse fire, said Stotler. They're anxious to help make a loan possible, he said.
If the county were to acquire a couple of million dollars somewhere, it would make the whole thing easier with having just one loan, said Stotler.
He said there was no word yet on the $1.2 million in funding that Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito has requested for the courthouse and no news from Senator Robert Byrd's office on additional funding.
Architectural design grant
Morgan County did receive a $27,000 grant through the Governor's Community Participation Grant Program for the architectural planning and design of the courthouse. They are continuing to move forward with their architect to meet the time frame they've set on courthouse bids and construction, said Stotler.
Stotler felt there was an offer on the table that could be worked with. They were talking to different lenders, just like someone would if they were looking for a loan to buy a house, he said.
"It has to be something that the county can financially and safely deal with," said Stotler of the ultimate loan package.
The commissioners will consider the courthouse funding proposals at their Friday, October 19 meeting.