County unveils stimulus plan

Mesa County is considering entering into a financing agreement that would allow it to sink $17.5 million into a variety of fast-tracked capital projects.

County commissioners are expected to decide Monday whether to approve the agreement, which would provide money up front for new facilities, building improvements and new trails.

The county had planned to pay for most of those projects with money from its capital fund. Should commissioners authorize the financing agreement, the county would use the freed-up capital funds, totaling about $12 million, for two road-widening projects.

In all, the county could spend nearly $30 million on infrastructure in the next three years.

County Administrator Jon Peacock told The Daily Sentinel on Wednesday the plan gives the county the ability to buy at a “bargain price” and put a dent in its unemployment rate, which has ballooned to nearly 10 percent.

“We’re taking dollars we’d be spending on projects anyway, but at a good price and hopefully putting jobs on the ground,” he said.

Financing for the $17.5 million worth of projects would come through what is known as a lease-leaseback, which wouldn’t involve a tax increase. Here’s how it works:

The county would sell a long-term leasehold on the Mesa County Justice Center to Wells Fargo Bank for an amount between $17.5 million and $22 million, giving the bank exclusive use of the property. The payment for the leasehold would come from the sale of tax-free bonds and Build America Bonds, the latter of which were part of the federal stimulus package approved by President Obama last year.

The bank would then lease the Justice Center back to the county for its use, with interest, for an amount ranging from $1.7 million to $2.2 million annually. County sales-tax revenue would fund the lease payment.

The lease is for 40 years, although Peacock said he expects the county to pay it off in roughly half that time. The bank’s leasehold on the Justice Center would be terminated once the lease is paid off.

Should the county default on lease payments, the bank could turn around and lease the Justice Center to another entity for any purpose, Peacock said.

He noted the county has used this type of financing tool before, paying off a lease on the county jail last year.

The $17 million in projects the county is looking to roll out through the lease-leaseback is highlighted by the purchase of a building where several county offices would be consolidated. Those offices would include county Public Works and Planning departments currently housed at 750 Main St., motor vehicle-registration office space leased at Mesa Mall and warehouse space leased for supplemental food programs and emergency medical supplies.

The county has offered to buy the former City Market headquarters and warehouse at First Street and Colorado Avenue with the idea of consolidating offices there. County officials are in negotiations with the building owner and are looking at other facilities. Peacock said he hopes to begin remodeling whatever building the county buys this summer.

Other projects will be:

Constructing a public works facility near the county landfill and consolidating all road and bridge and fleet maintenance shops there.

Expanding and remodeling the booking area at the jail.

Purchasing property for the extension of the Colorado Riverfront Trail. “We’re going to see more progress than we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Peacock said.

Enhancing equestrian facilities at the fairgrounds.

Building more bike and pedestrian trails throughout the county.

With its capital fund enhanced, the county would plan to spend $12 million to widen K Road between 19 and 24 roads and D 1/2 road between 30 and 32 roads. Construction will begin this year and finish next year.

Work on K Road will widen the shoulders and eliminate sight-distance problems, Peacock said.

The D 1/2 Road project, originally slated for 2013 and 2014, will be split into two phases. Workers will widen the road to create a center turn lane and construct seven-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the road for most of the length of the road. A small section of the road will have a sidewalk on just the north side.


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