The Smith County Commissioners Court received its first monthly update Tuesday, Jan. 9, on the $39.5 million bond package to improve county roads.
Smith County Engineer Frank Davis said he plans to provide a monthly update about the bond projects to keep citizens informed about the status of projects under construction, as well as upcoming projects.
Smith County voters voted to approve the county’s $39.5 million road bond proposal, passing the measure with 73 percent of the vote Tuesday, Nov. 7, according to unofficial voting totals.
The ballots showed 4,411 people, or 73 percent, voted for the bond, while 1,629 people, or 27 percent, voted against the issuance of bonds for road and bridge construction and major improvements.
Steven Adams, managing director of Specialized Public Finance Inc., gave a brief presentation to the Commissioners Court about the $39.5 million bond package approved by voters in November 2017. The bonds are anticipated to increase the I&S portion of the tax rate by 0.7 cents per $100 valuation.
The average home in Smith County is valued at $165,841, resulting in an increase in property taxes to the average homeowner in Smith County of $11.61 annually.
Adams said the bonds are planned to be issued in three parts over the next three years. The county plans to sell $12 million in bonds in May, followed by the sale of another $12 million in 2019, and $15.5 million in 2020, or as needed to complete the bond projects.
Adams explained the plan to undertake a competitive bid process for the bonds. Since they are highly-rated, short-term bonds, he expects them to be received well in the market. The county currently has an AA+ bond rating, which is equivalent to that of the United States federal government.
According to Adams, the county would see a number of bids, which may result in their sale at lower interest rates because of the solid financial condition and rating of the county.
Adams presented a timeline and said he expects the bids to be awarded in May and the county to receive the bond proceeds into the construction fund in June.
“I can’t be more pleased with the position the county is in … the financial footing of the county is outstanding,” Commissioner Jeff Warr said.
Davis said while they are waiting for the bond funding, the Road and Bridge Department has work, such as overlays, it can do in-house now.
As a result, the Commissioners Court approved a “Resolution Expressing Official Intent to Reimburse Costs of Projects for the Smith County Road Bond,” which will allow the county to borrow money from itself to start on the road projects, and reimburse those bond expenditures after the bonds are sold.
County Judge Nathaniel Moran said it would allow the county to begin bond work sooner than anticipated, without paying for interest in the meantime. The timing of the sales of the bonds also coordinates with the anticipated receipt of the first set of bills for major road projects.
Davis also gave the court a list of work the Road and Bridge Department has completed in the first quarter of 2018 – October through December.
Davis said two major road projects, paid for with specially budgeted funding, were completed.
First completed by Smith County was Big Eddy Road, or County Road 1261, was widened and overlaid, while Pennie and Clint Drives, also known as CR 1253 and run off of Big Eddy Road, were also improved.
The second major road project completed was overlaying Deerwood Estates -- County Roads 2328, 2323 and 2294.
Davis reported that the Road and Bridge Department was also busy fulfilling a total of 1,195 maintenance work orders, including 455 orders for blade and hand patching, 102 ditches cleared, 12 cross culverts installed, 13 bridges repairs, 128 downed trees or limbs cleared and 143 signs replaced.
According to Davis, he will continue giving the Commissioners Court updates on the road bond projects each month.
With necessary lead times for project engineering and bidding, citizens will likely see work commencing from this bond measure in the late spring and early summer of 2018, according to Smith County officials.