The Utah County Courthouse will be remodeled after all, despite concerns voiced Monday by County Commissioner Brent Morris that the county will receive no financial benefit from the remodeling.
By a 2-1 vote, the commission authorized the issuance and sale of not more than $1.5 million in lease revenue bonds by the Municipal Building Authority. Commissioners, who don dual hats as the building authority, are expected to again approve the resolution as soon as final remodeling costs are compiled.Money from the new bonds will be coupled with $1.8 million from bonds the county has left over from $13 million the building authority issued for construction of the new Utah County Regional Government Center.
"Why are we in such a hurry?" Morris asked in proposing a motion to postpone until next April a decision on the bonds. His motion died from lack of a second.
Morris said original legislative intent was to remodel the courthouse to accommodate the 4th Circuit Court, not the 4th District Court. The new plan to remodel the building for the district court should be reviewed by the legislative appropriations committee, he said.
State officials decided to build a new building for the circuit court, which is housed in the Provo City building.
Because the project is broader than originally planned, remodeling should go out to bid rather than being awarded automatically to Jacobsen Construction Co., which built the new county and state buildings, Morris added.
Under terms of the agreement between the state and county, the county will use proceeds from leasing the courthouse to the state for the next 15 to 20 years to retire the bonds. The county, however, will be responsible for bond payment if the state backs out of the contract or fails to make payment.
Monthly lease payments from the state will be only enough to cover bond payment, leaving no profit for the county. The agreement will tie up an important capital asset, Morris said.
For the county to issue bonds for the state's benefit is "bizarre," he added.
Morris also argued for the issuance of general obligation bonds, which would have to be approved by voters - unlike lease revenue bonds. "If we want to do a project like this, let it go to the voters."
Commissioner Gary Anderson said he agreed with many of Morris' concerns but said he feels confident the state will honor the agreement and make good on bond payments.
Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck said a letter from a legislative analyst authorized the county and state to go forward with the remodeling.
Because Anderson will be replaced in January by newcomer Sid Sandberg, the project still could hit some snags during the upcoming 30-day protest period if decisions on bond amount and interest rates have not been made by then.
"I don't think I have all the information I need at this point," Sandberg said. He said remodeling the building will be cheaper than forcing the state to build a new courthouse for the district court, but he wants to be assured the state will finance the entire remodeling cost. "I need to hear more about it."