Solid Waste Authority moves forward with $25 million bond issue | Newton

COVINGTON — In a 3-2 vote Thursday night, the Newton County Solid Waste Authority agreed to proceed with the issuance of $25 million in revenue bonds. The bonds will allow the authority to purchase the landfill from Newton County, begin a state-mandated reclamation project at the landfill and pay off a landfill-related Georgia Enviromental Finance Authority loan.

The bond issue discussed by the authority Thursday is substantially larger than the $10 million members had previously been told to anticipate would be needed to pay a lawsuit settlement for the county. From the $25 million bond issue, the authority will pay $13 million to purchase the landfill from Newton County; in turn, the county will use those funds to pay the $10 million settlement to East Georgia Land Company and the $3 million GEFA loan. The authority will spend the balance — $12 million — on the reclamation project.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said prior to the lawsuit settlement in April, county officials were aware that they would need a “considerable amount” of money — in a relatively short period of time — for the settlement as well as for other expenses related to the landfill.

“As we began to get into this, we were trying to consider the various ways we could pay the litigation and the loan and have sufficient funds to do the reclamation project,” Kerr said, adding that it was determined that a bond issue was the best route to accomplish those objectives. “The options were pretty slim,” he said. “That may have actually been the only way.”

Bond attorney Roger Murray told authority members Thursday night that the bonds will be backed by Newton County’s ability to levy taxes.

“The sole security for this bond issue is going to be the intergovernmental contract between the authority and the county,” Murray said. “We are selling these bonds on the basis that the county is going to agree to pay the authority the amount sufficient to pay each bond as it comes due.”

While the county is backing the bonds, Murray said a pending amendment to the intergovernmental agreement between the authority and the county will dictate that the authority “agrees to the extent funds are available that it will make the payments on the bond.” The county would then make up any shortfall.

Murray said the authority and the county will work out the details each year during budget discussions.

A series of pro formas presented to the authority Thursday night indicated that the Solid Waste Program will continue to face financial challenges for some time to come. Kerr said it will be several years before the program is self-sufficient — likely not before 2030.

“To really be in the black, it’s extending out some years, and that’s partially because of the debt…

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