Commissioners: Surplus should pay for new jail
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Two county commissioners aren't questioning how much money is in the county's reserve, but rather how those funds can best be used.
At the June 15 meeting, commissioners discussed bids of $20.7 million for the construction of a new jail and the negotiation of lowering construction costs.
Since bids came in at twice the original estimates from two years ago, District 2 Commissioner John Glasscock and District 4 Commissioner Stacy George questioned how the extra cost would be financed.
George suggested the funds be taken from the county's reserve, which Glasscock said stood at roughly $34 million and already includes $10 million set aside for the jail's construction.
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark later commented on George's and Glasscock's statements and how he felt the reserve should be regarded.
"The fact of the matter is those funds are all restricted, except $9.2 million," Clark said. "We need to leave $5 million in reserve for contingency, which leaves $4.2 million in cash assets for emergencies and budget amendments. A budget is just an outline, and the reserve should be saved for adjustments, not to finish paying the overrun on the jail."
George and Glasscock agree that all but $9.2 million of the reserve is restricted, but propose using half of the surplus to pay for jail construction.
At the meeting, Commission Chairman Larry Bennich said he would prefer borrowing the additional funding needed through a bond issue instead of from the county's reserve.
"If we use half of the surplus to pay for the jail, we will still have $4.6 million in reserve," George said. "That way the county will pay interest on half as much money borrowed through the bond issue."
"By not borrowing as much, we won't pay back as much interest. It's just that simple," Glasscock said. "If we need more money later, our credit is good and we can borrow it later. We don't have to borrow more than we need."
Glasscock and Clark will face each other in the November election to replace the retiring Bennich.
George and Stisher are both seeking re-election.