|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2012 - Polk County Publishing Company
Livingston to refinance bonds, issue new COs to fund library renovations
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — City Council members took the first necessary step to refinance $2.93 million in existing debt at a significantly lower interest rate during Tuesday’s regular meeting, for an estimated savings of $161,000. After Mayor Clarke Evans and council members Bill Wiggins and Judy Cochran recused themselves from discussion due to their existing relationship with First National Bank, the remaining alderman voted to allow City Manager Marilyn Sutton to execute documents related to the tax refunding bonds and sell them to First National Bank of Livingston, if the final terms are deemed favorable by the city’s financial adviser Jim Gilley of Coastal Security. The transaction with the local bank will also eliminate some of the expenses associated with a public offering, according to bond counselor Neil Thomas with Fulbright & Jaworski. “If they do not offer a market rate, the city can go out for bids. Coastal can advise you on what rate you can expect,” Thomas added. Gilley said the city is currently paying an interest rate of 4 percent on the Series 2002 and 2007 certificates of obligation slated to be paid off. “We estimate they can be refinanced at 1 percent or better,” Gilley said. Gilley also advised that local ownership of the securities would also improve the city’s chances of paying off the debt early if they so choose. City officials also unanimously approved a notice of intention to issue additional certificates of obligation of up to $6 million for the construction, renovation and equipping of the library which will be relocated to the Wadsworth Building; water and sewer projects including the construction of an elevated storage tank and the purchase of fire-fighting equipment. Sutton explained that the elevated storage tank and other water and sewer renovations are the key focus, but if the work can be completed under-budget, city official would have the option of using the balance for firefighting equipment. “But don’t tell Corky that’s in there,” Sutton joked, referring to Fire Chief Corky Cochran. The resolution adopted by the council states bids the council will consider issuing the bonds at a meeting set for June 12, and the bonds may be issued that day. The council also voted unanimously to repeal an ordinance regulating nonemergency ambulance services operating within the City of Livingston. City Attorney Gaffney Phillips said review of the ambulance service permitting issue has continuing following a request for a permit by Texan EMS, which was reject by the council at a February meeting out of concern for the impact it would have on the current 911 ambulance provider, Americare EMS. Phillips said discussions with the Texas Municipal League also led to a recommendation from that organization that a general law city does not have the authority to grant an exclusive franchise to any business. As of the February meeting Lone Star EMS was still in operation, although the owner was in negotiations with Americare. Since February, Lone Star has ceased operations as a distinct entity. The ordinance requiring a permit was drafted in 2004, when officials became concerned about potentially unregulated ambulance services setting up shop in Livingston. In 2007, the state adopted stricter regulations that addressed those concerns. Phillips said the only difference between the current requirements and the city’s ordinance was a higher liability limit. She added that if the city did not repeal the ordinance, it would have to grant a permit to Texan EMS since they had met requirements of the ordinance. Phillips said she received an letter from an Austin attorney on behalf of Americare EMS, but the issues he raised refer to emergency services and the city has no authority to regulate emergency providers. That power is reserved for the county. In response to questions from council members, Phillips added that her research showed the cities that currently require a permit are all larger than Livingston.