After months of back and forth between the Baldwin County Revenue, Finance and Budgets Committee and Oconee Regional Medical Center (ORMC) representation, the Baldwin County Commissioners passed a resolution backing the hospital to begin the refinance effort concerning 1998 bond debt of $24.7 million.
ORMC gets the go-ahead to start shopping with investment banks, but this resolution is non-binding, according to County Attorney David McRee.
“This resolution does not bind the county to go along with whatever the hospital does. It states that the county is in agreement with the hospital going out and seeking a refinance effort,” McRee said. “It does not commit the county at this point in time to whatever they bring back. We will have the opportunity to review what they bring back and have the final say so whether we participate.”
Sammy Hall, District 3, said other details would be worked out in an intergovernmental agreement.
Refinancing the bonds at a lower interest rate could save ORMC $500,000 per year. The net proceeds would be used to call and redeem the bonds, pay off a $1.2 million BB&T note and fund the acquisition of $3.3 million in hardware and software upgrades required by the Affordable Care Act.
In congruence with the Hospital Authorities law, the hospital is asking for a county ad valorem tax pledge not to exceed 3 mills.
The resolution includes protections preventing the county from ever leveraging the millage. Unrestricted cash and investment levels must be maintained throughout the agreement.
“If we see that it's not going to work out, that would give us another opportunity to look for other measures to negotiate something else for the hospital,” Hall said.
Discussion on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) was added to the agenda Tuesday.
The LOST is a 1 percent sales tax imposed on the purchase, sale, rental, storage, use or consumption of tangible personal property and related services. The special district tax boundaries are the same as Georgia's 159 county lines.
The tax is imposed in qualified municipalities on the sale of motor fuels, and in most counties applies to food and alcoholic beverage sale also. LOST is one of the most significant revenue sources for municipal state governments, accounting for 16 percent of general fund revenues, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.
Renegotiation is triggered by the new federal census every 10 years. With mediation between the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County over, the two sides have yet to settle the proposal to tax distribution.
A 30-day window opened Oct. 27, giving both sides a short time to agree or face baseball arbitration in a judge's hands.
“We've come really close to arriving at a distribution formula. We understand that our proposals, and the city's may not be exactly the same,” Hall said. “There still may be continuing negotiations. We have to have this done before the end of the year.”
In other news Tuesday:
n Baldwin County Fire Rescue Chief Troy Reynolds presented a fire prevention and protection ordinance that would establish a fire marshal's office to allow the county to carry out the rules and regulations as set forth by the Insurance Safety Fire Commission. The commission passed the ordinance.
Reynolds said small businesses currently have no inspections in place. This new ordinance would be a part of being up to fire code. ‘What we want to do here is improve the safety for the citizens and visitors from fire incidents. This will also improve our firefighters' safety. It puts us in the buildings, where we have first hand knowledge of how it's constructed and laid out,’ Reynolds said.
n A new Baldwin County Airport Operator's contract was approved.
n Anderson Bentley pitched a savings vehicle for county employees on behalf of Life Insurance Company of the Southwest. Bubba Williams, District 5, disagreed with private business advertising before the commission.
“He's been given the chance to speak before the government as an advertisement,” Williams said. “This is not what this meeting forum is designed for.”
n Emily Davis, District 1 vice chair, penned a proclamation read by County Manager Ralph McMullen honoring veterans, public safety and emergency responders for their dedicated service.
n McMullen said the county met with Dr. Jim Lidstone to sort through legal issues with a community garden at the Collins P. Lee center.
n Creation of a Baldwin County Airport Advisory Committee is in the works.
n The state mandates that Baldwin County account for any and all water loss. McMullen said water loss detections would be ongoing to locate all leaks.
The next Baldwin County Commissioners meeting is Nov. 29, at 6 p.m. in the courthouse Suite 319.
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