County OKs $1.5M loan to pay for narrow-band upgrade

Published 6:15 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved taking out a $1.5 million loan Tuesday, to pay for the county’s mandatory narrow-band communications upgrades, after a previously-expected source of funding fell through.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, County Administrator Gary Breedlove explained that the county had originally planned to partner with the City of Bainbridge, to make a loan through the Georgia Municipal Association to finance the city’s $252,000 and the county’s $1.48 million cost of the upgrade project.

The federal government is requiring all local public safety radio stations to change from the current “broadband” wavelength to a “narrow-band” frequency, by Dec. 31, 2012. This is necessary to free up other parts of the spectrum.

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The county had agreed in principle to partner with the City of Bainbridge to obtain funding through GMA, to pay communications company Motorola, who is handling the local upgrade project. However, Breedlove said Tuesday that the GMA loan possibility had fallen through.
“A couple of weeks ago, [the GMA loan] came apart, as least as far as our participation is concerned,” he said. “We have been seeking separate financing.”

Breedlove said that the county had received a loan offer from SunTrust Bank in May, and that offer was still available to serve as an alternate funding source.

SunTrust Bank’s offer is a $1.5 million loan with a term of five years and an interest rate of 1.8 percent. Breedlove said the repayments would be made on a monthly basis, and would likely be about $26,000 per month.

“That’s a much more steady pace than getting that big $200,000 or $300,000 bill on a six-month or 12-month basis,” he said.

Breedlove explained that the $1.5 million will not only cover the remainder of the project cost, but would also allow the county to replace the $440,000 that it had already paid out of its $3 million Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan, when the county was under the impression that GMA would be the funding source.

He explained that the $1.5 million was a slight increase from the initial $1.48 million estimate, because some additional pagers, other equipment, and site work needed to be added to the contract.

The commission unanimously granted Breedlove the authority to pursue the loan. It is expected to be formally approved at a called meeting Monday, at 5 p.m.

In other business, the county:

• Approved paying SecureSense Alarm of Bainbridge $37,550 to repair a fire alarm system that had been damaged by a lightning strike at the county jail. Breedlove explained that the county’s insurance policy will cover the bulk of that expense.

• Approved waiving dump fees for the Decatur County volunteer fire departments, during the weeks surrounding Bainbridge Bikefest. This is an annual request and is always granted.

• Learned from Breedlove that approximately $1.23 million remains of the county’s original $3 million TAN loan. He said the remaining payrolls for the month will likely use another $200,000 to $300,000 of that balance. However, an additional $440,000 will be returned to the TAN loan following the approval and reception of the $1.5 million SunTrust Bank loan.