County refinance plan not ideal

Commissioners to decide Monday on future budget

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After much anticipation, the results of a loan refinancing proposal for the Moffat County Public Safety Center are in, but they aren't ideal.

At a teleconference Friday afternoon, financial group George K. Baum & Company offered the commissioners a refinancing loan for the Public Safety Center that would redistribute the payment of $700,000 in debt over the next 12 years.

The commissioners had hoped to make a deal with G.K. Baum for a $3.5 million refinancing plan that would help dig Moffat County out of debt.

Moffat County Commissioners Les Hampton and Darryl Steele both expressed disappointment with the refinancing offer. Steele called the $700,000 loan "just a Band-Aid."

"It doesn't allow a length of time to fix the problem," Steele said. "We'll have to look at it again in a year."

"If it could have deferred $2 million or $2.5 million, then it would have been meaningful savings," Hampton said.

Not only was the refinancing loan less than was hoped for, but Ambac Financial Group, Inc. will not insure the loan. G.K. Baum was working with Ambac to insure.

Alan Matzlosz, G. K. Baum representative, explained the terms of the loan to the commissioners and the 16 people in attendance via speakerphone.

Because the loan is uninsured, interest rates will run three-quarters of one percent more than the interest rate for an insured loan would. That will add up to about $70,000 over the next 12 years.

Under the terms of the refinancing loan, the county will not have to make any payments next year. One partial payment will be due in 2005. Then the county will have to make full payments for the next 10 years. Matzlosz said the county could refinance again in 2008.

No formal decision was made Friday. Hampton and Steele said they wanted to consult Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, who was absent from the meeting, and other elected officials, before making a decision.

Their decision will be announced at a meeting at 8:30 a.m. Monday. That gives commissioners seven days to meet the Dec. 15 deadline for receiving budget approval from the state.

Earlier, the commissioners outlined two budget plans. The first, plan A, counted on a $3.5 million refinancing loan for the Public Safety Center, plus budget cuts of $1.6 million. The second, plan B, called for additional budget cuts of $450,000.

Because the refinancing loan is so much less than was hoped for, Plan A is no longer a viable option in its original form, but it can be revised.

"We'll look at A and B, and look at something in between," Hampton told the 16 people in attendance.

Matzlosz said Ambac did not feel comfortable insuring the loan because of correspondence they received from Craig resident Stan Hathhorn and former Craig resident Jeff Taylor.

Stan Hathhorn sent Ambec one email, stating his belief that the refinancing plan is illegal. He reiterated his view to the commissioners at Friday's meeting.

Hampton denied the allegations and said, "We've had legal contact all along the way."

In a reminder of how any budget cut will negatively impact someone, several women attended the meeting to request Shadow Mountain Clubhouse remain open. Commissioners could close Shadow Mountain to balance the budget.

The women use the pool at Shadow Mountain for water aerobics. Stefka White, speaking to Hampton and Steele from her wheelchair, said she practices water aerobics at the pool five times a week, and she believes she would have died three years ago if it wasn't for that exercise.

"Regardless of where you cut a dollar, you are going to negatively impact someone's quality of life," Steele said. "Whatever you do won't be popular in certain areas."

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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