Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to cash in the nearly $16 million that’s left of a $39.6 million bond package from 2018 in order to bankroll a new emergency services training center that Alamance Community College has in the works in Green Level as well as various other projects on ACC’s main campus in Graham.
During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the commissioners voted 4-to-1 to issue the bond package’s residual $15.84 million on October 31 to pay for the lion’s share of these assorted endeavors. In order to ensure that ACC gets its money’s worth from this sale, the commissioners also resolved to sell some extra bonds beyond what the voters had authorized in order to cover the issuance fees and underwriting expenses for this forthcoming bond issue.
In addition to greenlighting this final bond issue, the commissioners have also agreed to dip into ACC’s capital reserves to cover the balance of the training center and other associated projects.
According to Susan Evans, the county’s finance director, the community college will need a grand total of $19,296,857 to pay for ACC’s projects – or $3,459,857 more than the final bond issue is expected to generate.
This figure includes some $16,060,787 to complete the proposed training center, after accounting for a state outlay that has been earmarked explicitly for an indoor firing range at this facility. The community college’s leaders have also requested another $3,236,070 for various upgrades to the Main, Powell, and Gee buildings on ACC’s main campus.
A financial consultant in the county’s employ had previously informed the commissioners that they could use bond proceeds to cover this outstanding sum in its entirety if they fully availed themselves of the so-called bond “premium,” or additional debt which the bond market would be willing to bear beyond what the voters approved in 2018.
A majority of the commissioners chose to forego this extra debt and accept only enough premium to cover the aforementioned costs of the bond issue.
In absence of any additional bond revenue, Evans encouraged the commissioners to tap into the community college’s capital reserves for the funds needed to complete ACC’s various ventures.
Although the county’s finance director acknowledged that these reserves had contained $2.9 million when the current fiscal year ended on June 30, she assured the commissioners that they would grow to $3,552,441 by 2024, which would be enough to cover the community college’s financial request.
Evans conceded that the proposed use of these funds would reduce the capital reserves to just over $100,000. She added, however, that the community college would also have access to interest on earlier bond issues to foot any maintenance-related emergencies that may emerge over the course of the year.
The finance director’s proposed combination of bond proceeds and capital reserves went over well with most of the county’s governing board. The only serious objections to this financing strategy came from commissioner Pam Thompson, who complained about the training center’s overall cost as well as the omission of a “dirty burn” tower from ACC’s latest plans for the site in Green Level.
According to commissioner Steve Carter, who serves on ACC’s board of trustees, the high cost of running water lines to the site in Green Level convinced him and his fellow trustees to nix the dirty burn tower from this specific location.
Their plans for the site still feature a clean burn tower, which will give firefighters practice extinguishing conventional fires.
But in absence of a dirty burn tower, the community college has been forced to look elsewhere for a facility to simulate industrial fires and other, more complicated scenarios. At last check, ACC’s administrators were in talks with municipal officials in Burlington to establish a dirty burn tower somewhere on city-owned property.
For Thompson, however, the deletion of a dirty burn tower from the Green Level site proved to be the final straw in her mounting misgivings over this project.
“I’m watching ACC just about deplete everything they got to go into this center,” she said before she cast the lone votes of dissent against the final bond issue and the accompanying use of ACC’s capital reserves. “This is so much money, and it is without a [dirty burn] firefighting tower.”