Utah County may be able to use about $2 million in bond money to remodel the old County Courthouse for use as a community center if the space it leases to non-governmental organizations is limited.
Two months ago the Utah County Courthouse Committee recommended the historic building be used for housing quasi-governmental offices and as a cultural arts center. The county planned to remodel the building with the $1.8 million, plus interest, set aside from the original $29 million the county bonded to construct the new County Administration Building and the State Regional Office Complex.However, in November deputy county attorney Guy Burningham told county commissioners, who act as the Utah County Building Authority, that the county may not be able to use the bond money set aside because the bond agreement stipulates that the building be remodeled for use as a court facility. The county needs permission from bond insurers and trustees before using the bond money to remodel the building for other uses.
Because the bonds are tax-free, the county may be limited to leasing space to government-related organizations only. Leasing space to organizations like the United Way, Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce and the three local congressmen, would affect the tax-free status of the bond. Commissioner Malcolm Beck said all have requested space in the building.
Recently Blaine Carlton, a local bond attorney, told county officials they may be able to lease space to outside organizations if it is limited to less than 5 percent of the total space of all buildings included in the bond. Commissioners said they believe the county can meet the 5 percent limit and said the county will someday occupy all the space in both county buildings.
Commissioners said they would like to begin remodeling the building soon and asked Carlton to meet with bond insurers as soon as possible to determine if the bond money can be used.
Burningham told commissioners the county could move ahead with remodeling if it borrowed money from other sources. Clyde Naylor, county engineer, said the proposal for the remodeling project is almost complete.
If the bond insurers do not allow the county to use the $1.8 million, Burningham said the county would refund the bond money and seek other financing.