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County board makes plans for Jan. workshop

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POSTED: December 19, 2013 10:00 a.m.

Bryan County may look for a way to convince developers to construct homes on larger lots during a county commission workshop next month at the Administrative Complex in Richmond Hill.
The issue was one of several raised at last week’s commission meeting by County Administrator Ray Pittman, who asked the board for permission to schedule a workshop on Jan. 28 and invite the general public and builders to attend.
“It would be desirable for us to come up with an incentive plan to get builders to build on larger lots,” said Pittman, who also noted the county’s ordinance on the distance between driveways needs to be addressed because some are too close together on roads with 55 mph speed limits.
Other issues Pittman wants the board to address include a benefit plan for county employees and ordinances on road paving.
“Many items have been identified that we need to have open dialogue and open discussion on so we can intelligently come up with a gameplan for solution of many of the challenges we face,” Pittman told commissioners, who approved the workshop.
Residential building hit a near standstill during the recession, but new developments are springing up again in South Bryan.
And though it wasn’t discussed at last week’s meeting, the county was set to vote on changing retirement health benefits for future employees.
The county currently funds about 80 percent of health coverage for current retirees, an “unfunded liability,” which cost the county $869,193 in 2012 and could exceed $1 million annually within four to five years, according to information in the commissioner’s agenda packet.
Also last week, the board signed a memorandum of understanding with the Development Authority of Bryan County regarding the refinancing of two loans, each in excess of $5 million.
Prior to the vote, Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, who is also the senior vice president of The Savannah Bank, recused himself and left the room only to return after the discussion was over.
The county essentially co-signed with the DABC to refinance both loans with The Savannah Bank for lower interest rates.
The refinancing should save the DABC about $1.5 million, according to Bryan County Finance Director John Grotheer.
The first loan, used by the DABC to purchase 596 acres for Interstate Centre Phase II, was an interest-only loan for $5.3 million at 4 percent interest from United Community Bank. It was refinanced in November to 1.53 percent and is an interest and principal loan, according to Grotheer.
The second loan of $5.2 million, also from United Community Bank, was used to purchase 297 acres for Interstate Centre III. Also an interest only loan, it was refinanced as an interest and principal loan by the county in December to lower the loan interest rate from 2.49 percent to 1.53 percent, he said.
“The county received such a low rate on the first refinancing we went ahead and submitted (the refinancing proposal) for Phase III,” Groother said. “The county is very pleased with the rates offered by Savannah Bank and it should be a substantial savings to the Development Authority.”
The county becomes responsible for the loans if the DABC can’t make its payments, according to the memorandum. It will be replaced in January with an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the DABC.

 

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