With the Massac County Annex now sold, the next question for county commissioners is how best to use the profit.
The discussion began at Tuesday’s Massac County Commission meeting.
While all three commissioners — Chairman Jeff Brugger, Vice Chairman Jerel Childers and Secretary Jayson Farmer — agreed it should go toward the courthouse renovation bond, Massac County State’s Attorney Josh Stratemeyer informed them how to go about that will take some very specific steps.
The closing of the former annex, or Banterra Bank building given to the county in 2014, at the corner of Eighth and Ferry streets, took place May 26 as Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living became the building’s new owner. The property sold for $415,000; the net amount being $392,819.
The county borrowed $2,545,000 through bonds for the courthouse renovation. The yearly payment is made on Dec. 1, with the first being made in 2018 and the final payment due in 2034.
Stratemeyer said the way the bond agreement is written there is an optional redemption period with the certificate due on or after Dec. 1, 2025, or subject to redemption prior to maturity as a whole or in part in integral multiples of $5,000. In addition, certificates due on or after Dec. 1, 2032, are subject to redemption by the county as a whole or in part upon the occurrence of an extraordinary event.
That “extraordinary event” is defined as a receipt by the county from the city of Metropolis of an amount not to exceed $150,000 and from the Massac Memorial Hospital District of an amount not to exceed $250,000. The county, city and hospital entered into intergovernmental agreements in 2017 with the requirement that Phase 1 of the renovation project be completed before the funds could be requested. The county received the funds in 2019, holding onto them to make sure there were sufficient funds to complete the courthouse renovation.
“We knew (at the time of writing the agreement) we would likely get that money from the city and the hospital and we wanted to have the option of paying that toward those bonds,” Stratemeyer reminded the commissioners.
The courthouse remodel account currently has $421,096.96 from the city, the Massac Memorial Hospital District and leftover remodeling funds.
“The way I’m reading this (agreement) is we can certainly pay $400,000 toward these bonds,” Stratemeyer said. “The question is: since the ‘extraordinary event’ occurred, does that allow the county to pay off all the certificates due on or after Dec. 1, 2032. That’s something our bond counsel can answer for us.”
Stratemeyer told the commissioners that in his opinion of the agreement, the county will only be able to pay the $400,000 at this time and will have to wait until Dec. 1, 2024, to use the annex sale funds in making any other optional redemptions.
Another option the commissioners discussed is placing the $392,819 into an interest-bearing account until the funds can be used toward the courthouse remodel.
“I’ve had a few people talk to me, and I agree with them, they want to make sure we take the money if we sold the annex money and apply that to the bond,” Farmer said. Childers noted he’d been told that also.
“I think that would be the right thing to do,” Farmer continued. “If we’re unable to do that, I agree with Jeff that we look at a bank institution and see if they can put that money into something safe that will give us the most interest as possible, and in December 2024, when we can, we apply the additional $392,000, plus whatever interest is made during that time, to the bond. Currently, why don’t we start talking to them and see if we can apply the $400,000. It’s going to cost us some money to do it because we’re doing to have to hire an attorney in this field to get this done. But apply the $400,000 and leave the $21,000 in the account to finish some things up to the courthouse. If they come back and say we can use the $392,000 now, maybe we just do it all at the same time.”
Following several minutes of discussing options, the commissioners voted to place the $392,819 from the annex sale into the courthouse remodel account until it is learned if the amount can be applied to the bonds now or in December 2024.
“I think we want to make sure the message out there to the people is we are going to take the money from the annex and apply it towards the bond, either now or in December 2024 when the contract says we can,” Farmer said.
Stratemeyer was informed Wednesday afternoon that the bond attorneys agree the county can redeem all of the debt certificates due on or after Dec.1, 2032, an amount totaling $545,000.
“This is good news that would allow the county to go ahead and immediately pay off the bond certificates with maturity dates in 2032, 2033 and 2034, which are the final three years of the bond certificates and are also the debt certificates with the highest interest rates,” Stratemeyer said. “The county can then hold and invest the remaining funds until Dec. 1, 2024, and can then pay off additional bond certificates at that time.”
Massac County Sheriff Chad Kaylor updated the commissioners on the jail population, noting four Department of Correction inmates were transferred Tuesday morning, leaving three in the county’s custody.
Related to the topic, Kaylor noted that late Monday night the General Assembly allocated $25 million to county jails statewide for the reimbursement of DOC inmate expenses. Kaylor said the sheriff’s association is handling the negotiations with input from its members, noting the county could be reimbursed “anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 for inmate expenses at some point. Knowing that they did pass that bill allocating a lot of funds toward that shows they’re in the process of trying to get that squared away.”
County treasurer Jody Haverkamp informed the commissioners the county has received the first of two American Rescue Plan (ARP) deposits from the Department of Treasury in the amount of $1,337,525.
“There is some paperwork that has to be filled out. You guys are in charge of how you’re going to spend it. However, the final guidelines on how and what to spend it for will not be finalized until July,” Haverkamp said.
Stratemeyer noted that “if the county can show documentation of decreased revenue during the COVID period” the ARP money can “potentially be used for any purpose.” He suggested that as a first step in using the funding, then using the balance within the statutory guidelines. Investment is an option.
Haverkamp reminded the commissioners if they plan to spend any of it this year, they will have to amend the county budget. She said other counties “are investing it until they decide what to obligate the money towards. Part of it states all of the obligations have to be turned in and approved no later than Dec. 31, 2024. … There’s a lot of questions. You all have to get together and decide after the guidelines come through.”
The second payment is expected within 365 days of the first.
In other business
• The commission learned the Massac County Highway Department was doing some clean up on the gravel roads of the Unionville Bottoms and the work will be completed.
• The commissioners signed the tax deed for the Massac County Trustees to Robert E. Buffington and Clint A. Buffington for Parcel 01-17-400-013, which is on Old Boaz Road in Karnak.
• And, Haverkamp reported the county’s general fund balance is $22,433.
The commission is continuing its every-other-week meeting dates until further notice. The next will be at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 15.