Red Willow County is eligible for two federal economic recovery bond financing programs designed to encourage economic development.
County commissioners discussed at their weekly meeting Monday the "Recovery Zone Economic Development Bond" and "Recovery Zone Facility Bond" programs that are part of the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
* In the economic development bond program, counties and cities may issue bonds to finance local public infrastructure projects. Red Willow County qualifies for an allocation of bond authority of $738,000. Bond proceeds must be used by a political subdivision for purchase of property, construction of public infrastructure, public facilities, job training and/or educational programs. Proceeds cannot be used to re-fund existing bonds.
In the economic development program, the federal government reimburses 45 percent of interest paid on bonds
* In the facility bond program, private businesses within Red Willow County are eligible for an allocation of bond authority of $1,107,000. In this program, bonds must be used by a "qualified business" for construction of new facilities or acquisition of new equipment. Purchases of existing buildings and equipment is permitted under limited circumstances. Again, proceeds cannot be used to re-fund existing bonds.
In the facility bond program, interest on the bonds is exempt from state and federal taxes.
Nebraska has been allocated $90 million in the economic development bond program and $135 million in the facility bond program. A county's eligibility was determined by a formula that calculated unemployment rates and economic status. Hitchcock County qualifies for $188,000/economic development and $282,000/facility bond. Furnas County qualifies for $13,000/economic development and $19,000/facility bond.
Chase, Dundy, Frontier and Hayes counties do not qualify.
Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said that Red Willow County has road and bridge projects it could spend the money on, but that commissioners try not to borrow a lot of money. Andy Snyder, of Smith Hayes financial services, told commissioners Monday morning that he will create an amortization schedule showing repayment of the bonds over 20 years.
Gary Dicenta, the county's roads supervisor, said, "There's no lack of things to spend the money on, with paving projects a priority."
Time lines are short and imminent; bonds must be issued no later than Dec. 31, 2010. Commissioners decided to research the programs in more depth and discuss them at a later meeting.
* Commissioners designated Karl Elmshaeuser, executive director of West Central Nebraska Development District in Ogallala, as the county's "responsible charge person" to oversee county projects funded with federal aid or federal stimulus money.
* Commissioners removed the McCook North project (repaving north from McCook's East 11th street) from consideration for funding with federal stimulus ARRA money, and replaced it with the McCook West project, 1 3/4 miles of repaving south of the Perry elevator. The McCook North project is estimated to cost $1.3 million, which is $300,000 over the $1 million cap set by county commissioners statewide for consideration in the ARRA program.
The McCook West project is estimated to cost $500,000, and is as far along in the permit process as the McCook North project was, Dicenta said.
* Commissioners plan a public hearing Monday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m., for an appeal by Anna Hutchinson of the county's denial of county medical relief funds.