Originally created 08/04/98

Decision on bond planned



Columbia County commissioners will be asked tonight to approve $4.5 million in industrial revenue bonds to expand Augusta Preparatory Day School.

The bonds, issued by the Columbia County Development Authority, will pay for a new middle school, athletic fields, parking lot, lower school and a $1.9 million high school addition.

The commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Appling Courthouse.

Development Authority members approved the measure last week. But according to the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, the commission must approve the bonds, according to county attorney Doug Batchelor.

State law allows the Development Authority to issue these type of bonds, 501C3 bonds, to tax-exempt, non-profit organizations that use the money on projects that generate commerce and employment. The school expects to add about 15 employees over the next 10 years.

"What they are really trying to do is ensure that for the bond issues, these governmental agencies that oversee the authorities that do them are aware of what is going on, basically," he said. "Their approval is a very short and routine thing."

The bonds created a minor firestorm of controversy in May, when authority members agreed to reduce their fee to issue the bonds from $5,600 to $25.

The Development Authority is authorized to collect a fee of one-eighth of 1 percent of the bond total annually over the life of the bond. On the $4.5 million bond to Augusta Prep, the Development Authority would have collected $5,600 the first year, and could have collected approximately $15,000 if the bonds were paid off within a 10-year period.

In other business scheduled for Tuesday night, commissioners will be asked to purchase the Communicator -- an emergency warning phone system. The system would allow officials to pinpoint certain areas of the county to notify.

In all, the system will cost the county about $48,000 -- $38,975 for the machine and training and an estimated $9,000 annually for the system's 16 phone lines.