monroe county seal

Monroe County commissioners gave final approval to borrow $2.5 million to bring their facilities up to date at their March 17 meeting.

The county is borrowing the money from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), to be paid back over five years.

Commissioner John Ambrose asked whether the county should go ahead and borrow $20 million to get started building water lines to Juliette. That due to questions about well water there. But county finance officer Lorri Robinson said the county would have to pay a higher interest rate if it borrowed more money.

The county will use the $2.5 million to replace HVAC units in county buildings and replace traditional lighting with LED. 

Commissioner Larry Evans opposed the loan.

“I think it’s a bad time to be borrowing money,” said Evans. “I don’t think it’s essential. It’s a bad time to be borrowing any money because we’re in an unpredictable situation with coronavirus. The market is down 3000 points. We don’t know where this roller coaster is going to end. It’s gonna affect all of us.”

But commissioner Eddie Rowland said the county is doing for $2.5 million what ABM wanted $5.5 million to do. 

“We bought these buildings, and you have a responsibility to keep up with your property,” said Rowland. “We have deferred maintenance and there are roofs and things that need doing. You have to maintain your assets.”

Commissioner George Emami agreed, saying the county was lucky to have someone with Rowland’s knowledge on HVAC to put together their own plan to save money, and said the 2 percent interest rate is hard to beat.

Commissioners approved the loan 4-1, with only Evans opposing. The biggest portion of the funds, $972,000, will be spent at the Monroe County Jail and Justice Center. The county aims to shore up the 111 structures owned by the county.

The county had hired ABM last year to do an energy audit of county facilities. ABM came back with a quote of $5.8 million to improve energy efficiency. Spooked by the price, commissioners decided to do the work in-house. Commissioner Eddie Rowland did extensive work to develop a plan of action.

Evans said commissioners have only raised taxes four times in his 33 years on the board and he wants to avoid a tax increase.

Rowland noted there’s no tax increase included with the loan.

“Put that in the record,” said Evans.

“We just did,” said Tapley.

In other news:

• Monroe County’s water department will resume billing customers in-house rather than using the county’s vendor, Utility Partners. Robinson said the change is no reflection on Utility Partners but it just makes good business sense. Former county employee Leta Mays had moved to Utility Partners to do the billing and now will return to the county.