Beaufort County could issue bonds for $6.2 million in repairs, improvements

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 21, 2014 

Seventeen facilities run by Beaufort County need more than $6.2 million in improvements and renovations, according to county officials.

And the county might have to borrow money to pay for it all.

The projects are prioritized in the county's comprehensive plan and are just a slice of nearly $31 million in requests from county departments that Beaufort County Council will consider this spring when crafting its next budget.

Department leaders made their requests for capital improvements Tuesday to the council's Finance Committee.

Heating and air conditioning units at nearly a dozen buildings throughout the county account for much of the $6.2 million cost, county facilities director Mark Roseneau said.

Those buildings include the Law Enforcement Center, Human Services, and Disabilities and Special Needs, Roseneau said. Each has an air conditioning system that is at least 12 years old, and some are 25 years old, long past their projected life, he added.

Also needed are interior renovations at the County Courthouse and new roofs for the Detention Center, Law Enforcement Center and Bluffton library, Roseneau said.

The county might have to borrow money if it wants to address all the capital needs at once, and a financial adviser who has analyzed the county's credit standing says that should be possible.

The county has an Aa1 rating from credit rating agency Moody's and an AA-plus from Standard & Poor's. That places the county at the top of each agency's second-highest rating category, Amy Vitner of FirstSouthwest told the committee Tuesday.

"You're in a stable place to be able to take on more debt, and we don't have any concerns on that," Vitner said.

The better the county's credit rating, the lower its interest rates, which could put the county in position to borrow more and take on more of these projects, county administrator Gary Kubic has said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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