Utah County and state officials are about to wrap up an agreement to finance remodeling of the historic County Courthouse, but at least one commissioner has had second thoughts about the agreement.
As mandated by the Legislature, the state in January will take over from the county the cost of running the 4th District Court, which is housed in the County Courthouse. The county will use proceeds from leasing the building to the state to retire $2.8 million in revenue bonds that will be used to remodel the facility to better accommodate district court needs.Commissioner Brent Morris, however, feels the state should do its own bonding to finance needed remodeling or pay enough rent on the courthouse so the county can make some money.
Approximately $1.8 million of the $2.8 million comes from $13 million in revenue bonds issued by the County Building Authority Board for construction of the new Utah County Regional Government Center. As a result of concerns by state officials that $1.8 million worth of remodeling wouldn't be enough to address security concerns, last summer the state asked the county to increase that amount by $1 million.
Now, however, the state wants another bond addition, of $500,000 - making a total of $3.3 million available for remodeling.
Originally, Morris said, most of the remodeling money was for Provo's 4th Circuit Court, which was to move into the courthouse before plans were made to construct a new building to house it elsewhere.
"I think they could relocate (the district court) just as easily," Morris said. "Why should we get the bonding for them (the state). I could just see us going to the state and asking if they would finance a building for us."
County Engineer Clyde Naylor, who recommended in July the bond addition of $1 million, doesn't feel the county should increase the $2.8 million by the additional $500,000.
"I think we ought to resist that," he said. "I don't think they need it."
County commissioners are scheduled to meet Tuesday as the county's Building Authority Board to discuss the matter further with Michael Havemann, local court administrator.
If the county is going to sell more bonds, Morris said, they should be general obligation bonds, not revenue bonds. General obligation bonds would have to be approved by voters, unlike revenue bonds.
"My position is that it makes no sense having two types of bonds," said Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck of using $1.8 million in revenue bonds and another $1 million in general obligation bonds. Morris said the county should retire the $1.8 million in revenue bonds and give county voters a chance to vote on a $2.8 million general obligation bond package.
"I will never vote for the type of bonding that will cause long-term citizen indebtedness without it going to them for a vote," Morris said. By tacking on another $1.5 million in revenue bonds to the already available $1.8 million, "you condone the very system I'm opposed to."
Morris said he also opposes the additional bonding because the county will make no money by leasing the courthouse to the state. "We should have a profit margin there."
Under the proposed agreement, the state would pay approximately $323,000 annually to lease the building, and another $165,000 for taxes, insurance, maintenance and operation until the bonds are retired - between 15 and 20 years. The county would realize no profit from the proposed agreement, Naylor said.
"I don't think we'll see the state leaving" after the bonds are retired, Beck said. He said the county would then be free to restructure the lease agreement and "charge whatever lease amount we want to."