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County board delays vote on borrowing $1.7 million

After some supervisors suggested spending money that has already been collected rather than borrowing, the Pierce County Board voted to delay a decision on a $1.7-million loan to repair buildings and replace bridges.

The resolution to issue general obligation notes stalled March 23 as board members agreed to table action until a special April 13 meeting.

To proceed, the plan to sell bonds must be approved by at least 13 of the 17 county board members.

Under the federal Stimulus Act, Pierce County has been allocated authority to issue $1.699 million of recovery zone economic development bonds. The U.S. Treasury will pick up 45 percent of the interest on the bonds.

Joe Murray, the county's financial advisor, predicts a true interest cost of about 2.5 percent, saving the county about $80,000 in usual borrowing costs.

Payments would be about $192,000 a year for 10 years. According to Murray, the average Pierce County home is assessed at $199,000 and the tax impact of the debt on that home would be about $12.50 annually.

While priority would be given to other projects, including replacing the courthouse roof and remodeling restrooms in the courthouse and the county office building, the bulk of the money is expected to be spent to replace bridges on CTH F in the Town of Clifton and on CTH U south of Plum City.

The bridge on F has an estimated price tag of $5 million and the bridge on U is expected to cost $1.6 million. The state will pick up 80 percent of the cost, leaving the county to pay about $1.32 million for both bridges.

"I'd vote against this myself," said Supervisor Jim Camery last week. "This puts the county debt at $5 million...when I came on (the county board), it was zero."

The county's debt would amount to about $125 for each man, woman and child in the county, figured Camery.

He called the proposed borrowing "a vicious precedent" and said the county should not be borrowing to replace bridges, fix roofs or repair buildings--ongoing needs that should be covered with annual budgets.

For more please read the March 31 print version of the Herald.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.