Salisbury-Rowan Utilities seeks $40 million in bonds for upgrades, refinancing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Following City Council approval Tuesday, two projects to update Salisbury-Rowan Utilities infrastructure and refinance debt will go before the Local Government Commission for the issuance of revenue bonds.

A Tuesday resolution authorized the filing of an application with the Local Government Commission for approval of the bonds and to request the commission to sell the bonds. The commission under the State Treasurer’s Office oversees debt management of municipalities.

The revenue bond requested is $40 million — of which $20 million will go toward Grant Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements, $10 million will be for water treatment plant improvements and $10 million will be for refinancing debt.

The Grant Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant updates are intended to prevent the pump station from flooding problems, since the location is in a flood plain. It also will add technology to lower nutrient levels. Assistant Utilities Director Jason Wilson said the facility has come close to flooding and needed to be sandbagged.

Mayor Karen Alexander said the city is being proactive not reactive.

The city’s water treatment plant will upgrade filters and add a new solids handling system, which will allow SRU staff to “dewater” onsite, without having to haul water. Wilson said this will have a quick return on investment.

He said SRU would be opening up for bids this week and know the exact construction costs in short order.

The other amount, $10 million, is from two previous revenue bonds from 2009 and 2010. Finance Director Shannon Moore said the 2009 revenue bond matures in 2025. The 2010 one matures 2028. Both would remain on schedule with a refinancing, Moore said.

The city will save about $1 million by refinancing, with an interest rate of almost half of what it currently is she said. The $30 million bonds will have a 25-year term.

City Manager Lane Bailey commended the council for agreeing to a SRU rate increase for this fiscal year. The budget was increased by 1.6% for all customers. An average household saw a $1.12 increase per month in water and sewer bills. The increase allows Salisbury to keep up with infrastructure concerns.

Bailey said water and sewer is out of sight and therefore out of mind, but the council did the right thing for the citizens.

The resolution unanimously approved Tuesday states the City Council affirms that the issuance of the revenue bonds is necessary for the city to improve its water and wastewater facilities and reduce its debt service obligation, and that the proposed revenue bonds are at a reasonable interest cost to the city.

The council was given the resolution before the start of the meeting, and Councilman David Post said the resolution should have outlined the need and what the $40 million would be used for. He said the council didn’t know the facts behind it until they started to ask. Post said $40 million is “real money.”

Alexander said she was aware of the ask but agreed. The funding is needed.

“We’re using the money in the best possible means,” Alexander said. “It’s a good thing.”

The council also approved to adopt  a capital project ordinance to allow CDM Smith to perform engineering design services for the Grant Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements project for $1.29 million. The council adopted a capital project ordinance for the Water Treatment Plant Improvement Project with LaBella for $320,000.

Other business:

• The City Council agreed to allow Bailey to enter into a contract Alley, Williams, Carmen, and King in the amount of $323,102.33, which is about 15% of construction costs, to perform construction inspection for the Newsome Road Project to install curb and gutter, bike lanes and sidewalks on Newsome Road from Faith Road to Bringle Ferry Road.

City Engineer Wendy Brindle said the paving would involve 425 days of construction.

• The City Council approved a transfer of a city owned lot to Downtown Salisbury Inc. The grass lot, which is on the 200 block of S. Lee Street, will be turned into a newly created parking lot. Brindle said the 230 S. Lee St. house would not be affected.

The lot will create 32 parking spots.

• Brindle said the city will be replacing street lights on the 300 block of N. Lee Street and to expect reduced lighting on Feb. 3-21. The light replacement is in between Lee Street Theatre’s showtimes.

• Alexander proclaimed Matthew Michael Brown Day to be Jan. 21 and gave him a key to the city. She said he has left a lasting legacy. Brown thanked the city for “this extraordinary honor.”

• The City Council approved a rezoning from urban residential to corridor-mixed use of seven parcels, 405 and 437 Bringle Ferry Road, 714 N. Shaver Street, 424 and 430 E. Lafayette St. and two unnumbered lots.