The December meeting of the Cumberland County Commission started with a resolution to continue to grant a non-exclusive franchise to distribute video and television to the Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative. The BTC serves a small number of households near Bledsoe/Van Buren Counties. After some discussion, it was decided that the Commission would like to have all franchise payments made monthly instead of twice a year and voted to agree to the franchise contract with that stipulation. Other routine resolutions included appointing Michael Stone to the South Cumberland Utility District, and the appointment of Sandy Brewer, Jimmy Smith, Linda Hassler, David Gibson, and Grant Thurman to the Adult-Oriented Establishment Board. Budget amendments for various school and county funds were also approved.
After hearing from Joseph Ayers of Cumberland Securities, the Commission voted to refinance approximately $30 million in debt that is currently backed by Allied Irish Bank. A couple of years back, the Commission at that time decided to refinance with this bank, with a variable interest rate that is adjusted weekly. This has turned into an expensive proposition as the rates have steadily increased. U.S. Bank will be backing the debt, and the current interest rate will decrease by 2.6 percent. If the rate differential holds over the life of the debt, the savings would be in the neighborhood of $17 million. The maturity date of the debt remains the same, 2039. I supported the refinancing of this debt, but I believe the County needs to do a complete reevaluation of the current debt status and talk with other security companies to ensure we are doing the best we can for the taxpayers.
The next item on the agenda was the sale of the old library building. You may recall that sealed bids were taken on this building recently. Only one bid was received, and it was for considerably less than the fair market appraisal of the structure. At that time, I, along with a majority of the Commission, voted to reject the bid. I was also concerned that the County may need the space in the future. We were told that a space study had been done and that the space was not needed for at least the next 20 years. After some digging, I found that a space study had not been conducted but that a layout of the courthouse had been drawn up. After the recent activity leading us to the building of a new Health Department and considering that the County will take ownership of the old Health Department, I no longer have concerns for space. The bid on the agenda was from Hilltoppers Incorporated for the full fair market appraisal of $420,000. The bid was approved unanimously.
At the request of Mayor Carey, the Commission approved a resolution declaring February 22, 2011 “Spay Day” calling upon the people of Cumberland County to observe the day by having their own pets spayed or neutered or by sponsoring the spaying or neutering of another person’s pet or of an animal in a shelter awaiting adoption.
The final issue for the Commission was the recognition of Chester Bush. Mr. Bush is retiring after serving almost 30 years in the county as the District Conservationist. I thank Mr. Bush for his service and wish him well in his retirement.
I want to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you on the Board of Commissioners, and I thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. More information is available on my website at http://allenfoster.net. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to contact me.