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County accepts loan bid for several projects

St. Croix County will pay 1.849 percent interest on $10 million it is borrowing for improvements to various county facilities and to buy equipment and software for the emergency communications center.

Joe Murray of Springsted Inc. estimated that in 2015 county taxpayers will see a jump of about $3 per $100,000 of property value as the county begins to repay the debt. The promissory notes will be paid off over 10 years.

“I continue to bring more good news,” said Murray, the county’s bond counsel, as he addressed the County Board last Tuesday morning.

Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded the county’s credit rating to “Aa1.” There’s only one higher rating, and a county with a population and tax base as small as St. Croix’s would be unlikely to reach the top rank, said Murray.

He said the rating agency was pleased to see these three things: 1) the county’s equalized values are starting to rebound; 2) it has very low debt; and 3) it has been aggressive in repaying earlier debt.

“That’s all reflected as positives,” said Murray. While he had expected to get six or seven bids, 10 came in, and even the highest bid was lower than he projected in June.

The County Board voted to accept the low bid, offered by Piper Jaffray & Company.

Murray had predicted an interest rate of about 2 percent. The lower rate will mean a savings of about $107,000 over the 10-year life of the notes, he said.

The county will apply $3.3 million from the sale of its land in New Richmond to the cost of the projects, thus reducing the amount borrowed.

Projects to be funded with bond proceeds include the following:

— Communications (911) Center expansion, Phase 1

— Building acquisition, construction and equipment costs related to the relocation of Health and Human Services Department to the St. Croix County Services Center, 1752 Dorset Lane, New Richmond

— Vacating, demolition and cleanup of the old HHS building

— Public safety communication system improvement, Phase II, including replacement of the microwave system, simulcast/trunk conversion and replacement and addition of radio towers

— Deferred 2014 requests, including jail central renovation, repairs on the Government Center parking lot and information technology upgrades

The resolution to borrow was adopted by a unanimous vote of the County Board, with three members absent.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

(715) 426-1049