Upping the ante

Published 8:29 am Thursday, September 11, 2014

AHOSKIE – There are some 33 miles of roadway maintained by the town of Ahoskie, and while all of it are in some need of upgrade and maintenance, about two-thirds will be getting that facelift.

Earlier, the Ahoskie Town Council gave the Wooten Company of Greenville the green light to analyze the street infrastructure in the town back in early 2013 and based on their findings it was determined that a street improvement project be undertaken.

If all the work needed were done it would cost somewhere in the range of $1.8 million.  To expedite the improvements to those streets whose dilapidation was due to use, condition, and age; and whose improvements would be the most cost-effective, the town sought the approval of the Local Government Commission (LGC).  The LGC’s approval allowed the town to seek additional funding for the street improvement project through either the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or commercial funding sources.

The town sought to borrow $500,000 and looked at interest rates and terms of a loan from among others: Southern Bank, BB&T, PNC, the Local Government Federal Credit Union as well as USDA.

BB&T was the bank that submitted the winning bid to finance the first phase of the road improvement work: $500,000 at 2.5 percent interest for seven years in a proposal dated July 2, 2014.

At its Aug. 5 meeting the LGC approved the town’s request for the BB&T term financing.

Meanwhile, at the regular meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council on Aug. 8, before an LGC-required amendment to the town budget could be made, County Manager Tony Hammond said that he and his staff would investigate financing through USDA for the entire three-phase project and with terms for a longer period of time.

Tuesday at the Council’s regular September meeting, Hammond reported back with his findings.

‘We met with USDA a couple of weeks ago and USDA will re-finance this project as long as we add phase two to it,” Hammond reported. “They can’t just re-finance phase one itself.”

Hammond said he and Town Finance Officer Patricia Taylor Bradley met with the auditor to make certain there was an understanding of what the town’s wishes were.

“USDA will do phase-one and phase-two, which is a million-dollar project; their interest rate is four percent,” Hammond continued.

The Town Manager said the $1,000,000 loan at 4 percent for 20 years to complete the first two phases would have a note payment of $73, 581 annually, and for 30 years it would be $57,830 per year.

USDA also would finance all three phases for $1,500,000 – also at 4 percent interest – for 20 years with an annual payment of $110, 372, or 30 years paying $86,745 annually on the note.

Bradley concurred with Hammond that the recommendation of the auditor was the 20-year project, all three phases, for a million-and-a-half dollars. Hammond then presented both proposals before council.

“Do you want to go ahead and pursue this project with USDA funding,” he asked.  “If you do, do you want to do phase-one and phase-two, or do you want to do all three phases and get the entire project done and get it over with.”

Hammond said if the USDA proposal was accepted the Council would have to submit a new resolution to the LGC at their October meeting.

Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse asked the Town Manager what he recommended and Hammond answered the he would call for completing the project, all three phases.

“It’s still going to leave us about $70,000 a year to maintain what we have to maintain, but we’re going to have everything done out there; there’ll be very little left for us to maintain,” Hammond said.

Hammond re-iterated the auditor’s recommendation of the 20-year loan on questions from other Council members in attendance: Elaine Myers and Maurice Vann.  Council members Charles Freeman, due to a pressing family matter, and Mayor pro-tem Linda Blackburn did not attend the meeting.

“He (the auditor) just thought it would be paid off sooner and it’s not that much more than what we’re currently doing right now,” Hammond added.

Town attorney Buddy Jones reminded Council members that there would be a penalty to BB&T for early payoff of the already-approved loan.  A one-percent penalty would amount to $5,000.

Stackhouse then made a motion to pursue the auditor’s recommendation of the 20-year USDA loan, which was seconded by Myers.

The motion was passed unanimously by the Council members in attendance.