The Carroll Board of County Commissioners passed a motion to forgive $644,000 of debt — including nearly $300,000 in interest — owed by the town of Sykesville that was borrowed for upkeep and maintenance at the Warfield Complex and negotiations concerning the ongoing Warfield development project.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said this project, which has been ongoing for close to 18 years, was on life support until the current commissioners — with the assistance of the Department of Economic Development — helped to get things moving again by loaning the funds. In total, the county loaned Sykesville about $1.2 million.
Jack Lyburn, adminstrator of outreach and strategic accounts for the department, said forgiving a portion of the debt and interest owed will make the project more affordable for the developer.
Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw and the Town Council proposed the debt forgiveness because the town could not afford to sell the property to the Warfield Development Corporation, the group of investors interested in developing the complex, with that much debt on the property.
"The numbers just weren't working," Shaw said. "To get something moving and to make the numbers work, we all had to be a bit more realistic."
The corporation plans to renovate 10 existing historic buildings on 150,000 square feet of the complex, which will cost an estimated $5 million. Another 150,000 square feet of commercial pad sites and 125 residential units are also planned.
Lyburn said that by forgiving the debt and allowing the project to move forward, the county will gain $400,000 in new tax revenue from the residential units beginning next year.
Significant revenue from the rehabilitation of the historic buildings and pad sites could take as long as 12 years for the county to see, Lyburn said. When the complex is completed, however, this will draw another $500,000 to $600,000 in tax revenue per year for the county.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, asked whether the residential properties will have an effect on the area's public facilities, such as police, the fire department and schools.
Lyburn said he had not looked into that.
Commissioner David Roush, R-District 3, said the real value to the county comes from the commercial properties because more often than not, it costs more money to service a residential site than what the county gets from tax revenue.
Commissioner Robin Frazier, R-Dictrict 1, said she has no problem with forgiving the interest owed, but the debt owed should be paid because it is taxpayer money. She was the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote Thursday approving the debt forgiveness.
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commissioners sell $73.5 million in bonds
County Attorney Tim Burke reported the sale of $73.5 million of general obligation bonds Thursday to Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
In preparation for the bidding process, several commissioners, and the directors of the departments of Comptroller, Management and Budget, and Economic Development presented the county's finances, management practices, economy and demographics to three credit rating agencies, incuding Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, earlier this month.
Carroll County Breaking News
All three agencies reaffirmed their previous ratings, with Fitch and Standard & Poor's giving the county a AAA rating and Moody's an Aa1, a grade just below AAA.
The county received eight bids and found Citgroup's, offering a 2.23 percent interest rate, the most attractive.
The county chose to use the sale money to refinance previous bonds, and $58.5 million will go to paying off these debts from 2004 to 2008. By paying off $58.5 million of debt at the new rate, the county will be saving $4.365 million.
"This is far more than what we anticipated when this process first began," Burke said.
The remaining $15 million will be used to fund capital project needs.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said as the next board begins the 2016 budget, it needs to be congnizant that the rates won't be this good forever.
The commissioners voted to approve the bond sale, and it will be finalized Nov. 13.