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Strong rating from Moody’s helps county secure low borrowing rate

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 May 2015 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Orleans County was assigned an A1 rating by Moody’s Investors Service, and that positive rating helped the county secure a 20-year bond for $8.03 million at a 2.81 percent rate.

The county is borrowing the money to replace bridges, culverts, roofs and other infrastructure work. Depository Trust submitted the lowest borrowing rate of five bidders. Depository has bought other county bonds before, said County Treasurer Susan Heard.

She said the county has held a high rating by Moody’s in recent decades, which has resulted in low-financing rates for county projects.

Moody’s said the county has a stable $1.7 billion tax base, showing modest growth of about 1.0 percent annually the past five years.

“The county’s financial position should remain satisfactory given conservative budgeting and the recent sale of the nursing home,” according to the Moody’s report.

Moody’s also said the recent sale of the county-owned nursing home for $7.8 million will allow the county to pay off $7.1 million owed for that facility’s debt. Selling the nursing home also eliminates the potential for county subsidies for the facility. The county had to take $900,000 from the general fund to cover budget shortfalls at the nursing home in 2013, Moody’s said.

The county has a “manageable debt level” and average reserve levels, Moody’s said. The county’s rate could go down if reserves are depleted. The rate could be improved with bigger reserves and significant tax base growth.

Moody’s said the county is challenged by “below average wealth indicators” in the community.

The $8.03 million bond will provide $4,963,000 to replace six bridges from 2015 to 2017. Those bridges include two in 2015: a bridge from 1934 over Beardsley Creek on Waterport-Carlton Road in Carlton, and a bridge from 1968 in Barre over Manning Muckland Creek on Oak Orchard Road.

Other bridges to follow include one from 1959 in Kendall on Carton Road over Sandy Creek, a bridge from 1936 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on East Scott Road, one from 1928 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on Culvert Road, and a bridge from 1956 in Kendall over Sandy Creek on Norway Road.

The county also plans to replace six culverts for $1,500,000. Those culverts are identified as two on Knowlesville Road in Ridgeway, two on Platten Road in Yates, and two on South Holley Road in Clarendon.

The infrastructure investment plan also includes $1,540,000 in work at county buildings, including two new pole barns for $460,000. Those 60-by-150 foot barns are estimated to cost $230,000 each. One would be used by the highway department and the other by emergency management.

The county also wants to replace the roofs on the County Administration Building and the Public Safety Building, with each at an estimated $510,000.

The remaining project includes a generator for the mental health building for $60,000. That generator will service a new hub for county information technology infrastructure.