Carroll seeks federal bonds

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE —  Carroll County worked to extend its run of landing federal stimulus funds for development efforts at its organizational meeting Monday.

Carroll County, the Public Service Authority in particular, has proven successful in receiving millions of dollars for "shovel-ready" water and sewer infrastructure projects.

The latest effort involves seeking Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds and Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, a subject broached at the county meeting where the county board of supervisors elected its chairman and vice chairman.

"It's been a long year, it's been a good year and I think very productive," said outgoing Board of Supervisors Chairman David Hutchins.

Hutchins nominated his successor, Wes Hurst, who had served as vice chairman in 2009 while Hutchins served as chairman.

There were no other nominations.

Supervisor Andy Jackson made a motion to elect Hurst as the chairman. With Supervisor Manus McMillian absent, four supervisors voted for the nomination while Hurst abstained.

Following both Hutchins and Supervisor Sam Dickson as chairman, Hurst noted he had some big shoes to fill.

After the supervisors elected Supervisor Tom Littrell as vice chair, County Administrator Gary Larrowe noted that a planned special meeting of the county board could not be held, due to the absence of McMillian.

But Larrowe sought the advice of County Attorney Jim Cornwell on whether the elected officials could go ahead and consider an application for the federal recovery act bonds.

Cornwell answered that the supervisors could proceed with that at the organizational meeting, with the advice that they should ratify the decision with all the county board members present at their Jan. 11 meeting, as relayed by Larrowe.

"This will allow the process to continue today, since the deadline for those applications are due tomorrow," the county administrator said.

He presented a resolution that would approve application for both the economic development and the facility bonds.

The federal government has allocated $25 billion for this program nationwide, and Virginia's share totals $495 million, Larrowe said.

He encouraged the supervisors to take advantage of an extension of the deadline to apply.

"That does not mean that we would end up receiving funds," he explained. "It would be that we would have a placeholder for the funds if our application was actually viewed positively."

Another positive thing about the bond issuance is the feds pay up to 45 percent of the interest charges, Larrowe said. He hoped that the county would receive the bonds to help finance economic development projects and bring jobs to the  community.

Perhaps Carroll County could reallocate its portion of the bonds to help a company who wants to build a facility bring their interest payments down, for example.

The bonds could be used to finance projects in 2010, he said.

Disbursement of the funds would not be known until after all localities apply, and then a limit would be set for Carroll County, Larrowe explained.

"It may be large, it may be small," he said. "But anything that might end up buying down some interest charges, I think we should end up moving ahead...."

Hutchins made a motion to approve the resolution and apply for the bonds, and Dickson seconded. All five supervisors present voted to approve the motion.

During the organizational meeting for the Public Service Authority, outgoing Chairman Sam Dickson reflected on his year leading the board over public water and sewer operations and development.

"I really think it's a blessing from the Lord that we've been able to do what we did," he said. "I believe the Lord is shining upon us. Good things are going to happen for Carroll County."

During the nomination process, PSA Member Jeanette Dalton nominated Andy Jackson to be the authority's chairman for 2010 with "confidence and pride" that he will do a good job.

The nomination was approved. No other candidates were considered.

Manus McMillian was nominated and approved in his absence to be the vice chairman of the PSA.

Jackson thanked his fellow board members for their confidence in him.

"It puts a heck of a burden on me to try to keep up the pace," he said.

With the continued support from the authority members and staff, he said he foresees another good year. "I'll do my best, but I"m going to need a lot of help," Jackson said.