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Possible savings on bond refinancing could push decision on Yellow Medicine courthouse project

GRANITE FALLS — An opportunity to refinance bonds could lead the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners to make a decision sooner, rather than later, on whether to replace its aged courthouse.

Michelle May, finance director, told the commissioners at their meeting on Thursday that bond consultants estimate the county could save $100,000 to $140,000 if it took advantage of the opportunity to refinance the bonds from the 2000 project that houses the jail and social services center, the newest section of the courthouse complex. There are eight years of payments remaining on the issue, with the next due in February.

The county could also tap its reserve funds and pay off the remaining $1.8 million in principal on the issue, in which case the estimated savings would be in the range of $200,000 to $300,000, according to May.

If the county was to refinance the bond, the commissioners noted that they would like to know whether the county will also be issuing $8.1 million in financing for a proposed project to replace the original 1889 portion of the courthouse, including an addition built in the

. Commissioners want to avoid the duplicated costs to the county of issuing two separate financial issues.

After discussions on Thursday, the commissioners said they would consider the re-financing and building issues at their Jan. 7 meeting. Chairman Ron Antony noted that to realize the maximum savings by refinancing, the commissioners would need to act in the first quarter of 2014.

During discussions on Thursday, the commissioners indicated they are open to looking at both the option of refinancing or paying off the bond outright.

The bigger question the commissioners are considering is whether to pursue a proposed $8.1 million project to replace the older portion of the courthouse. The proposal calls for building a 40,000-square-foot structure on the courthouse grounds and razing the existing 29,872 square-foot 1889 and 1950s addition.

The new structure would be attached to the jail and social services center.

In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved a 1 percent cost of living increase and an increase in the annual county contribution toward employee health coverage by $100 for the county’s non-union employees.

They likewise unanimously approved identical 1 percent increases and $100 increases in health care contribution for the county sheriff and county attorney.

And, by a 3-2 vote, they approved a 1 percent increase in the base salary for county commissioners and a $100 increase in the health care contribution.

Commissioners Gary Johnson, Louis Sherlin and Greg Renneke voted in favor; commissioners John Berends and Ron Antony were opposed. Berends and Antony said they preferred no increase. They said they heard complaints about the $2,000 increase awarded last year, which brought the base salary to $20,858.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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