News Column

Crawford JPs Updated On Jail-Bond Financing Schedule

August 12, 2014

By Justin Bates, Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.



Aug. 12--In a brief special session Monday, the Crawford County Quorum Court was updated on a jail-bond financing schedule.

In the May 20 primary election, voters OK'd a three-quarter percent sales tax to fund a new jail that will replace the existing 88-bed detention center in Van Buren, approving two separate tax issues -- a half-percent tax to pay the debt service for the construction of the jail and a permanent quarter-percent tax for operations and maintenance.

Kevin Faught, a public finance banker with Stephens Inc., attended Monday's meeting, and updated justices of the peace on the bond financing schedule. In July, financing documents were submitted to Standard & Poor's, a financial ratings agency, and received an A+ rating, the highest mark possible.

Faught said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the rating, adding it would help with the interest rates and sales of the bonds.

"That's good," Faught said. "It only helps when we go to offer bonds with that rating."

Faught mentioned that although the interest rates on the sale of the bonds are yet to be determined, based on the current environment, rates should be favorable.

The bonds will be issued for sale on Monday, Faught said. The Quorum Court will meet in regular session Monday and will be required to approve the bond sale ordinance that night in order to lock in the interest rate, as rates fluctuate daily, he said.

The ordinance must be considered in three separate readings and must carry 75 percent of Quorum Court approval, County Judge John Hall said, adding that because of the urgency of the matter, the Quorum Court could elect to suspend the rules to consider all three readings at Monday's meeting.

Construction on the jail at 4301 U.S. 64, about a mile east of Interstate 540, will begin in April 2015 and be completed in January 2017, according to a design plan from SouthBuild TEAM, the architect designing the facility.

Based on the finance schedule, bonds are expected to be closed and the money transferred to the county in September, Faught said.

Hall said a land purchase discussion would be conducted with the Quorum Court at that point.

Faught pointed out that the county must spend the first 5 percent of collections from the tax by March and all money collected within three years.

Faught, along with attorney Ryan Bowman, a partner with Little Rock-based law firm Friday, Eldredge & Clark, who wrote the ballot title, will be on hand Monday to discuss any last-minute questions JPs may have before approving the sale.

In other business, the Quorum Court tabled a discussion of a payroll services contract. Hall explained that the county was considering contracting with Van Buren-based consulting firm SPMI Payroll Services to oversee payroll for the county. Based on discussions with the firm, Hall said, the county's software system is integrated differently than the private entity's SPMI serves and may not be compatible. He said he would like to explore options provided by the county's existing software provider, Apprentice Information Systems. He mentioned that if the agency had a payroll system available that was compatible with the county's system, it could begin utilizing it at no additional cost.

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(c)2014 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

Visit Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.) at www.swtimes.com

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Source: Times Record (Fort Smith, AR)


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