County building plan a stimulating proposal
Mesa County has a chance to build new facilities, create jobs and boost the local economy — all without raising taxes — by approving a $17.5 million lease arrangement next week. When added to projects the county had already been planning for the next couple of years, it means the county will be spending nearly $30 million in capital projects in the next two years, not including projects where work has already begun, such as the 29 Road viaduct.
It is a sensible idea that will meet important county needs without adding to the burden carried by county taxpayers. It is made possible by the timely convergence of several economic factors.
First, the downturn in the economy means construction costs have decreased. They’re down 10 percent to 20 percent from what they were just two years ago, said County Administrator Jon Peacock. As a result, the county can get more built for less money.
Also, the stimulus bill passed by Congress last year, at the urging of President Barack Obama, includes federally subsidized Build America Bonds, which make local government bonds especially affordable right now.
Finally, the county is scheduled to pay off sales tax bonds next year — bonds approved by the voters in the early 1980s that have been refinanced several times and used for everything from the construction of the Redlands Parkway to the remodeling of the county courthouse early in this decade.
The county pays $3.2 million a year on that bond. Under the lease-leaseback arrangement being considered now, payments will be no more than $2.2 million year. The county Justice Center will be the facility leased by the county to a financial institution, then leased back by the county, to repay the bond costs.
The arrangement will provide the county with money to purchase and refurbish a building for administrative and warehouse use. That, in turn, will allow the county to sell other facilities and move out of costly rental space.
Additionally, it will be able to construct a new shop and Road Department administrative building near the county landfill, replace and improve aging structures in the equestrian area at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, and speed up acquisition of land and right of way for the Colorado Riverfront Trail.
Two related road projects that had been planned for three or more years from now will be constructed in the next two years if the lease arrangement is improved. They are the widening and addition of safety improvements to K Road from 19 Road to 24 Road, and D 1/2 Road from 30 Road to 32 Road.
Bonding and lease arrangements are not new financing vehicles in this area. They have been used successfully in combination by both Mesa County and School District 51.
When the Mesa County commissioners consider this plan Monday, we hope they will decide this is another time where this sort of financing makes abundant sense — for county government and for the local economy.