Flooded structures, bonds sold

Nine of the 19 flooded structures put up for sale by the county were sold after a bidding process, said assistant county engineer Travis Schmit to the Ward County Commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday. Only one high-bidder removed himself from a property and one bidder was rejected because he failed to meet the county’s bidding threshold.

The money from the sales, which includes the security deposit of the high-bidder who backed out of a property, will go straight into paying off grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development and the State Water Commission.

“The next step is to allow … non-profits to salvage items out of the homes we didn’t sell and some of the ones that didn’t contain asbestos and/or are in a non-habitable condition for like windows, doors, cupboards. We’ll have a list of the properties and what items they can pull,” Schmit said. “And then for demolition it’s kind of up to the committee … You can kind of do two options. You can either start with and allow salvage for like a couple weeks possibly and then move over to demolition … Allow them to come back and have an open window for demo or you can constrict it and make it more narrow which would save you in cost.”

The money for demolition will come from the previously mentioned grants, as well as $562,000 set aside in the Community Development Block Grant for demolition activity.

Bond sale

First Southwest, a Dallas investment bank specializing in public finance investment, was awarded the sale of the tax-revenue bonds being used to finance the upcoming Ward County office building, jail expansion and courthouse renovations. The bank was the winner out of 12 total bidders. Their purchase price was $36,109,000.

“The true interest rate ends up being 1.8797 percent. So, an excellent result. You might recall on the previous preliminary schedules we were estimating an interest rate of 2.13 percent. We did request a bond rating from Standard & Poor’s and we did receive and ‘A-‘ rating,” said Myron Knutson of Public Financial Management, the firm handling the bond sale. He described the high rating as “certainly beneficial in helping” to get low rates on the bonds.

“One of the things we did is requalify these bonds for insurance … so they agreed to insure the bonds, of course, for a premium, but we left it up to the bidders to decide whether that insurance was of value to them and if it was they had to pay the cost of that insurance out of their compensation. So the county isn’t paying that up-front,” he said of a bond feature. “That, again, helps you to get a higher rating.

“The bidders are bidding what’s called a premium. They’re paying you more up-front than you’re paying back in principle,” he said. “As a result of those large premiums you’re going to end up with about $966,000, or just about a million dollars, in the constrcution fund more than you were expecting to.

“So that just means you’ll have more money up-front to work with, to cover project costs including if there’s anything in there you want to use for the infrastructure or road projects, too,” Knutson said of the extra funds. “And if there is anything left in that project fund after projects are done then that goes back in the sinking fund to pay the bonds back.”

Other business

– Director of Tax Equalization for Ward County Seth Hagen was called out by Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg for calls he and other commissioners had received about Hagen’s perfromance at tax equalization meetings. He said that Hagen “behaved like a juvenile delinquent” and showed up late to at least one meeting in Rice Lake and “walked in with a cap on backwards like you didn’t know which direction you were going.”

“You are a representative of this county and we would expect the proper decorum,” Gruenberg said. “This better not happen again.”

Commissioner John Fjeldahl also said he had received calls of complaint and said the behavior “has got to stop.” Hagen apologized to the commissioners.

– Several county highway improvement projects were approved by the commission. County engineer Dana Larsen gave an update on the damages sustained through winter on county roads. Both Larsen and county emergency manager Amanda Schooling do not believe they will receive much state support unless other areas of the state have also been very effected.