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Loan given green light

JACKSON – Some of the money is in the bank – almost.

The Northampton County Commissioners conducted a public hearing Monday afternoon and then approved a Letter of Conditions to accept a $1.8 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office. All the legal maneuverings were the next step in the building of the Northampton Wellness and Cultural Center.

What wasn’t included in the verbiage Monday was a prospective $500,000 grant.

&uot;Your Letter of Conditions only addresses the $1.8 million loan and not the grant,&uot; Area Specialist Susan Christensen of Rural Development said. &uot;The reason is the grant is not in Rural Development funds yet.&uot;

Christensen said the money had to be transferred to Rural Development from another department and that would not happen until October 1.

&uot;After October 1, I assume we will be back before you with the $500,000 grant,&uot; she said.

Christensen said the $1.8 million in loan funds had to be approved Monday and obligated Tuesday or they would be lost, which explained the two being separated. She also said if the grant did not come through, the county would not be obligated to accept the loan.

&uot;We understand without the grant, the project is not feasible,&uot; Christensen said.

Commissioner Fannie Greene asked if she was clear that the Board was not obligated to the loan if the grant did not come through. Christensen said they weren’t obligated to either, but the money had to be designated by Tuesday.

According to Public Works Director Andy Crew, the portion of phase one, which will be funded by the grant and loan, will include the Office on Aging and the community theater.

The Letter of Conditions requires the Board to pay back the loan in 40 years with an annual payment due 12 months following the closing of the loan.

It also includes Rural Development holding a first Deed of Trust on the land the center is built on.

Christensen said the county had two years to satisfy the conditions and more time could be added by the Board’s written request.

The loan will be fixed at 4.125 percent unless interest rates drop before closing. It would mean an annual dept payment of $92,646 for the county, according to Christensen. County officials had projected the annual cost at $86,000.

Commissioner James Boone again raised his objection to the financing and the &uot;piece-mealing&uot; of the project.

&uot;I would like for us to talk about other funding,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t feel good about piece-mealing the project. I understand the funds are gone tomorrow, but there are too many funding sources to tie up this money.&uot;

Following the discussion, the Board voted 4-1 with Boone dissenting to accept the Letter of Conditions.