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County borrows for $715,000 projects

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Last week the St. Croix County Board approved a plan to borrow $715,184 to cover the county's share of four projects, including replacement of radio consoles for emergency communications and a 911 system for cellular phones.

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As supervisors worked on the 2006 budget last fall, they decided state-imposed tax levy limits wouldn't allow them to include the funding in the 2006 budget. Instead they decided to borrow for the projects.

Finance Director Michelle Pietrick advised that the loan is outside the reach of the levy limit. Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting said the board could decide to pay off the loan when the first debt payment is due.

The resolution adopted May 16 gives Pietrick authority to apply for a Wisconsin State Trust Fund Loan. The matter will come back to the board once the loan is approved.

River Falls Supervisor Chuck Struemke said he is concerned the county will continually use borrowing to sidestep property tax levy limits. He said the board should work hard to assure the loan is paid off in the next budget year.

The State Trust Fund interest rate is 4.5%. Payments are expected to be $160,263 in each of five years, starting in 2007.

Pietrick reported that the county could expect to pay a lower interest rate by selling bonds to cover the debt, but once the cost of issuing bonds is factored in, the board will save over $30,000 by borrowing the money from the Trust Fund.

These are the project amounts to be included in the loan package:

  • Up to $413,420 for a system that will allow emergency services dispatchers to locate cellular phone users who call 911. The county expects a grant will repay nearly $230,000 of this cost by January 2009.
  • Up to $227,290 to replace 13-year-old radio consoles that permit staff in the emergency communications center to communicate with police, fire fighters and ambulance services from six tower locations.
  • Up to $7,500 to pay the balance of the cost of converting five fire base stations to repeaters. Federal grants will cover 75 percent of the total cost, and the county has already committed $18,000 to the project.
  • Up to $66,974 to replace a 14-year-old electronic system that controls the flow and time of water to showers, toilets and sinks in the county jail.

    The resolution to borrow the money was adopted unanimously.

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