Socorro County jail bonds sold, resolution passed

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Socorro County sold its jail bonds Jan. 22, and the commission passed its award resolution during its regular meeting that evening.

Socorro County voters approved the jail bond measure 3,335 to 2,470 in the general election Nov. 6, 2012.

The measure allows the county to issue up to $5 million of general obligation bonds to build a new detention center. The bonds will be repaid with property taxes collected in the county.

County manager Delilah Walsh said bidding for the bonds opened at 10 a.m. She said the county got an A2 rating from Moody's Investor Service and was able to sell the bonds with a 2.3 percent interest rate for repayment.

Commission chairman and District 4 Commissioner Daniel Monette remarked it seemed like "a heckuva rate."

Chris Muirhead with Modrall Sperling Law Firm, the bond counsel for the county, said during the public sale of the bonds that morning, BOSC Inc. submitted the best bid. BOSC is related to Bank of Albuquerque, which is related to Bank of Oklahoma.

Muirhead said the county was able to catch the wave of historically low interest rates for governmental debt. The bonds have extremely good rates going out into 17 years, with an all-in cost of about 2.3 percent.

Muirhead said the bond sale provides the full $5 million for the general obligation bonds approved by voters in this past November election. He said they can close the transaction in February, with the money available to the county by late February or the first part of March.

"We're very positive about the sale," Muirhead said. "… And I can tell you doing this — it's what I do as a lawyer — these are very competitive, excellent interest rates for this transaction."

Muirhead said approving the award resolution is the last action for the County Commission in the bond funding process.

Walsh said property taxes will not be raised to pay for the bonds. Once the county has paid off its old bond, which should be in about three years, more will be paid on the principal of the new bond. She said payments were structured this way to keep from increasing property taxes and from having debt extend out beyond 20 years.

She added the county had originally expected to pay about 4 percent interest on the jail bonds.

"So this rate is much better than anticipated," Walsh said.

Muirhead noted the county has a very good credit rating for its size. He also said the rates are fixed so there will be no variable rate risk for the county.

The commission unanimously approved the award resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of the bonds.

In other county business, the commission:

• Authorized county staff to apply for DWI program grant funding. County DWI program coordinator Teresa Rosales said the program is asking for $15,000 more than they requested last year. Rosales also mentioned the program now has a licensed mental health therapist on staff so they can provide mental health services to DWI clients.

• Approved a resolution certifying the county will use Secure Rural Schools Act Title III funds for the Firewise program.

• Authorized application for colonias funds. Walsh said the only colonia community in the county is San Antonio, and the county applied for colonia funding last year for San Antonio Park. She said although the application was unsuccessful last year because high needs projects were prioritized, she wants to apply every year since staff already did most of the work needed on the application last year.

• Approved a budget adjustment for the clerk's office. County Clerk Rebecca Vega explained the adjustment was just a readjustment of the department's own budget in order to increase salaries for some employees at the clerk's office.

• Approved vendor checks dated Jan. 9-17 totaling $ 1,199,429.53. Monette added $429,317.16 of that went to Socorro Consolidated Schools.

• Approved Jan. 9 payroll checks totaling $180,384.89.

The Socorro County Commission's next regular meeting is 10 a.m. Feb. 12. That same day in the afternoon, the commission will hold a workshop to review road data for its GIS mapping project.

GIS, or geographic information system, is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing, managing and presenting all types of geographical data in digital format. GIS mapping will enhance the county's management of roads and 911 emergency response.