published Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Hamilton County Commission to vote on $90 million credit line

Hamilton County Courthouse
Hamilton County Courthouse
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger comments on a portion of his budget to county commissioners in this file photo.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Commissioners today are expected to vote on opening a $90 million credit line, selling a half-million-dollar piece of property to a growing tractor company and spending nearly $200,000 on high-tech TVs for two new schools.

Mayor Jim Coppinger said Tuesday the requested credit line will help the county pay for county projects with short-term debt, just like a credit card. According to the resolution, those expenditures will be "various public works projects." But Coppinger said that could include any structure or project that has a 15-year lifespan.

"We're going to do it now out of a line of credit, because we can do it more consistency and cheaper," Coppinger said.

Commissioners Fred Skillern and Tim Boyd say they like the idea -- as long as it's done right.

"In the business world, you use a line of credit to get over the humps and troughs in revenue. What concerns me is if they decide down the road to transfer it to long-term debt," Boyd said.

As long as the county keeps a zero balance on the line, Boyd is behind it.

Skillern has a similar worry.

"Whatever projects come up, as long as we are maturing bonds, I have no problems with issuing bonds. But I don't want to issue more debt," he said.

Coppinger said Tuesday he understands their concerns, but the move is intended to save money -- not spend it.

The county was approved for a $120 million line, but it only took $90 million, he said.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said he doesn't expect the measure to meet much opposition.

"Our debt service is being paid down and we are maintaining a AAA credit rating," Henry said.

Commissioners also will decide whether it will sell 10 acres in Centre South Riverport/Industrial Park to Southeast Mahindra USA to build an assembly plant. The acreage will bring a $561,000 pay day for the county, and the company is billed to bring 70 permanent jobs within five years.

Also on the agenda is an item to spend $194,798 to buy televisions for Red Bank Middle and Ooltewah Elementary schools.

Skillern on Tuesday questioned the need for constantly upgrading classrooms.

"The school system comes to us asking us to spend our discretionary funds on [smart boards]. Now they want money for these TVs to work somehow with their iPads. I don't understand it. ... Chalk still works, and two plus two is still four," Skillern said.

In other business commissioners will consider:

• Accepting a proposal from DigiPoint Solutions to scan Juvenile Court records into a digital file system.

• A $1.2 million agreement with CSX Transportation to install railroad crossing improvements at two sections of the Downtown Riverpark in St. Elmo.

• Approving the appointment of Dr. Steven Cogswell as an associate medical examiner to fill a position left by former medical examiner Frank King.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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