County gets $700K for projects

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gov. Robert Bentley announced Monday that Covington County will receive nearly $700,000 in ATRIP funding to resurface one road and replace two bridges.

The announcement came hours after commissioners agreed to generate $2 million for the projects’ matching funds by refinancing two bond series totaling $6.135 million. The move reduces the series’ average interest rate from 4.65 percent to a fixed rate of approximately 3 percent – generating a net savings of $460,000 after all costs have been paid – and increasing the life of the loan by three years.

Under the refinance, the payments will remain the same for the next five years and then increase by approximately $90,000 per year. Payoff will occur in September 2036.

Merchant Capital LLC is handling the refinancing.

Chairman Lynn Sasser called the refinancing the “logical, sensible thing to do.”

Commissioner Carl Turman said, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the commission. We’re elected to do what’s best for the county, and this is it. I’ve heard positive and negative comments about it, and the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“This money is to be used for roads and bridges – period,” he said. “We (the commissioners) don’t get kickbacks. That’s illegal. The only people that’s getting something out of this is the voters of Covington County.”

County administrator Brenda Petty pointed out that the payment changes will occur after the next administration leaves office – which could be quicker than anticipated after Bentley’s announcement of 34 additional supplemental road and bridge projects that are now able to move forward as part of Round 1 of funding for ATRIP – the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.

“With these additional projects, we are moving closer to our goal of improving the safety of roads and bridges throughout Alabama,” Bentley said.  “Many of our bridges are in desperate need of repair or replacement. Many of our roads are outdated and cannot handle current demand. Through ATRIP, we are able to make needed improvements to enhance public safety and quality of life in our communities.”

The first phase of Round 1 funding was announced in May, and included $166,520 to resurface County Road 70 from County Road 49 to County Road 77. The county’s match is $33,299.

Monday’s local project announcements included two new bridges – one on Bay Branch Road over Bay Branch and another on County Road 89 over Corner Creek. Total cost for the projects is $666,990. With $530,378 in ATRIP funding, it brings the county’s matching cost to $136,612.

Petty said the county must now get a bond rating from Standard & Poor’s before the bonds can be sold; however, the additional $2 million should be in hand in 30 days. She said the money will then be put into an interest bearing account and used as projects are funded.