By Terry Britt
Described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” a land purchase through certificates of obligation was approved Tuesday by theA Van Zandt County Commissioners’ Court.
If the deal is finalized, it would allow the county to purchase the block owned by Canton businessman Lonnie Browning, just north of the county courthouse in downtown Canton.
Tuesday’s formal action called for legal notices to be published for the issuance of $740,000 in certificates of obligation. However, part of the discussion between court members and Mike Brown of Government Capital Corporation concerned possibly going through tax anticipation notes (TANs) for the money instead.
Brown explained that the latter option might enable a purchase deal to be closed about one month earlier because it would not require legal notice publication. Brown estimated it would be Sept. 20 before certificates of obligation could be issued.
The court’s decision drew one vote of opposition, that from Precinct 1 Commissioner Bill Rowton.
Rowton expressed concerns about paying for the debt with the county already looking at a tax anticipation note in preparing the new county budget for October.
Brown calculated it would take a half-cent increase in the county’s interest and sinking tax rate (the tax specifically for debt service) to cover the certificates of obligation for a seven-year period.
Van Zandt County Judge Rhita Koches, speaking during the discussion on the matter, admitted the timing might not have been the best from the county’s standpoint.
“To be honest, this is a bad time to be doing this,” Koches stated. “We’re just not rolling in money and to borrow more money, nobody’s comfortable with that…
“It’s just that the property is now available and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy land right by the courthouse, even though it’s something the county may not need for another eight to 10 years,” she added.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Carroll noted, “I would hate to lose (the chance to purchase) that property.”
Koches earlier had indicated other potential buyers had already inquired about the property, but the county was being given first chance at it.
In other business on Tuesday, the court took the following action:
-Tabled a decision on the county’s retirement plan assessment for fiscal year 2013.
-Renewed the fiscal year 2013/2014 State Case Registry/Local Customer Service (SCR/LCS) Contract for the office of district clerk.
-Authorized the county judge to request from the State Comptroller the county’s allocation of unclaimed capital credits from electric cooperatives for use by the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Van Zandt County, and disbursement of same, upon receipt, to the CAC.
-Approved an interlocal agreement for fiscal year 2013 between the county and Andrews Center.
-Appointed Pam Pearson of the Wills Point Economic Development Corporation as the county’s representative on the East Texas Economic Development District.
-Appointed Jim Stephens of Canton as the county’s representative on the East Texas Rural Planning Organization Technical Advisory Committee.
-Approved an application for a Homeland Security Grant to purchase portable radios for the county constables.
-Approved an application for a Homeland Security Grant for the Myrtle Springs Volunteer Fire Department for communication equipment.
-Tabled action on salvaging old electronic equipment from the Van Zandt County Library.
-Approved an emergency budget amendment regarding funds available for capital outlay lease equipment for the sheriff’s office.
-Awarded a bid to Sanitation Solutions for waste disposal services for Precincts 1, 2 and 3 for a one-year contract period starting Aug. 1, 2012.
-Approved a Dam Emergency Action Plan for Sites 129, 134 and 135C.
-Approved budget amendments for the IT department, sheriff’s office and Van Zandt County Jail.