The Cartersville Development Authority authorized a bond resolution totalling $5.484 million to finance the connection’s construction. Bartow County will take responsibility for paying the bond off, using 2014 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
The project was included in the 2014 SPLOST, and since last year the county has been considering entering into an intergovernmental agreement with 411 Partners, a developer and landowner, to build the connection. Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor approved a restated and amended intergovernmental agreement during his Wednesday meeting, clearing the way for the bonds.
“The new structure of the issues is that the county will be paying it all back from SPLOST proceeds and they have pledged their full faith and credit behind the bonds in case there is any shortfall. So they are guaranteed by the county,” said Assistant Cartersville City Attorney Keith Lovell. “The county will actually be handling the day-to-day management of the construction project for the authority. They will be holding the bank account. Whenever they have to make disbursements they will, of course, send that over here for the chairman to approve, or whoever else is authorized to approve that for the authority, then the county will handle all of that.”
County Administrator Peter Olson said the county would not have signed off on the project if SPLOST funds would not cover the debt. Gabriel Agan, of Raymond James, which handled the private placement of the bonds, explained how conservative sales tax estimates were used to make the needed calculations.
“Peter and I have worked pretty extensively in going over what we feel are extremely conservative sales tax estimates. You know, under the conservative zero based growth, even looking at the reduced levels that we’ve seen the last few months in sales tax collections, we believe that SPLOST will be sufficient to cover this debt. So it’s not anticipated, under the most conservative circumstances, that this isn’t going to be a tax increase,” Agan said.
Agan also said Hamilton State Bank took on the bonds in the private placement. It was an arrangement, he said, that saved the development authority the cost of a public placement and kept the financing local.
Southland Engineering is now working on the plans for the extension even though all the right of ways have not yet been acquired. Lovell said 95 percent of the needed right of ways have been acquired, and he expects the final signature by the end of the month.
With the project moving forward, Olson said he and Taylor looked forward to the economic development the connector could create.
“We’re excited about it because we think it’s going to open up good economic development opportunities. It’s going to tie in right where Shaw Plant 15 is, the developers have gotten permission to reopen that cut, you know, so the developer who owns that 200 acres right there, so it goes through their property and they’re donating the right of way,” Olson said. “... It’ll allow traffic to divert off  and head south and I think it’ll open up that area of the county for development, so that’s why the commissioner likes it so much.”
The project will not affect any homes, Olson added, as the county bought the property a mobile home park once occupied.
Once engineering plans are finished, the county will move forward with a bid process. Olson said construction could begin after the first of the year.