02/03/14 — Fremont, Mount Olive seek portion of county trust fund money

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Fremont, Mount Olive seek portion of county trust fund money

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 3, 2014 1:46 PM

Fremont town officials are hopeful that they can take advantage of a county trust fund to help erase their town's long-term debt and in doing so, clear the way for securing loans and grants for much-needed infrastructure projects.

Mount Olive town officials are eyeing the same pot of money to help move along improvements to the town's airport.

Together, the towns are asking for $501,880 of the $576,923 in Wayne County's portion of the Eastern Region Trust Fund. The loans would have to be repaid within five years.

When the Eastern Region was first formed, the state appropriated money for the trust fund that could be used by member counties for economic development projects. The Eastern Region is being dissolved and will be replaced by a privatized Eastern Regional Alliance.

March 1 is the deadline for the county to file an application to borrow the money. If the money is not obligated by June 30, it will be turned back over to the state.

The county can borrow the money for economic development uses only for a 1 percent ($5,769.23) fee and no interest for five years.

However, the county could decide to charge its own interest.

It also is possible the county could borrow money from other counties that do not plan to borrow from their own trust fund accounts.

In those cases, the counties could charge Wayne interest as well.

Fremont wants $251,880.51 to pay off existing long-term debt and another $50,000 to repair the Norwayne School sewer lift station.

Mount Olive has requested $200,000 to cover its $150,000 match for $1.5 million in state funding for making improvements to the older part of the runway at the town airport.

As part of the work, the runway lighting will require improvements as well.

Wayne County commissioners will hold a work session on the trust fund requests when they meet Tuesday. An agenda briefing will be held at 8 a.m. followed by the formal meeting at 9 a.m.

The work session is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

All of the meetings will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

In a letter requesting the funds, Fremont Interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock said the town wants to pursue improvements to its aging infrastructure using a mix of grants and loans.

However, the existing debt means the town lacks the money to repay the loans, she said in the letter. Being able to pay off four existing long-term debts would save the town $108,519.34 in interest, she pointed out. That would free up money the town could use elsewhere, Ms. Aycock said.

Commissioners at their Jan. 21 meeting announced that anyone interested in borrowing from the trust fund must submit their project to the county for discussion at the work session.

The Mount Olive project, which had already been requested, and the Fremont project are the only two requests included in the board's agenda for Tuesday.

Commissioners will discuss the projects again on Feb. 18 when they will vote on which project, or projects, to select.

In other business Tuesday, officials with Davenport & Co., the county's financial consultant, will present the county's 10-year schools and capital improvement plan during a 12:30 p.m. workshop.

The plan was last publicly discussed during an October joint meeting of commissioners and the county Board of Education when Davenport's Ted Cole and Bob High reviewed the $223,957,663 plan.

As proposed then, doing all of the projects would require up to a 17-cent increase in the county's property tax rate. A bond issue and a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax have been mentioned as possible financing and funding options.

Commissioners also are scheduled to act on a resolution honoring the life and service the late Sheriff Carey Winders.

Commissioners will be asked to sign an supplement agreement with the state Department of Transportation for an additional $15,000.

The county and state signed an agreement last February for the state to conduct an economic impact assessment on eastern North Carolina as result of improvements to U.S. 70. The agreement was later amended to include a similar study on the proposed continuation of Interstate 795 from Goldsboro to Interstate 40 in Sampson County. The state had agreed to fund the $350,000 study. However, the estimated cost is $365,000. The supplement agreement is for the state to supply the remaining $15,000 needed to pay for the study.

The consent agenda includes two items:

* The sale of surplus property at 901 N. Carolina St. that is jointly owned by the county and city of Goldsboro

* A petition to have the state to add Miller Street in the Country Acres subdivision to the state road maintenance system.