CHARLESTON, W.VA. - The Kanawha County Commission approved a debt refinancing proposal that will save county taxpayers $1.16 million over 10 years during a busy meeting Thursday.
The county still owes about $7.6 million for renovations to the W. Kent Carper Justice and Public Safety Complex on Virginia Street East in Charleston, said William Chambers, an accountant the commission used to oversee the refinancing.
At an interest rate of 5.07 percent, the final cost to the county would be $9.8 million, including payments that have already been made.
However, Commissioner Dave Hardy asked the commission in November to examine the possibility of refinancing the remaining debt on the building, and commissioners voted to request bids for doing so.
The lowest-cost bid was from Chase Bank, which currently holds the debt for the building. Chase offered to cut the interest rate to 2.45 percent - less than half the current rate. When combined with other costs, that would cut the amount paid for the building to $8.64 million, Chambers said.
An offer from BB&T had a lower interest rate but had higher transaction costs, making the final cost more than Chase's offer.
The refinancing plan from Chase locks the county into the lower interest rate for the remainder of the loan and carries penalties for paying off the debt early. The county also waives its right to refinance again in five years.
Still, Chambers said the likelihood that the county could obtain a lower interest rate five years from now was low.
Commissioners unanimously approved the proposal.
In other business, commissioners:
Russell Trucking, operated by David Bowen, was the unlicensed contractor who illegally cut more than 300 trees from Coonskin Park earlier this summer. The incident is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office.
Chuck Bailey, the parks commission's attorney, told the county commissioners about the plan, which parks commissioners approved at their November meeting. He said Russell Trucking has a $1 million insurance policy.
If the parks commission ends up having to sue Russell Trucking and Bowen, Bailey said he will fight hard for the parks commission to recover the damages.
"I'll even go after his mother if I have to," Bailey said.
County Commission President Kent Carper said "litigation is always risky," and he wouldn't want to see the county commission have to pay Bailey's legal fees if litigation against Bowen fails.
Carper told Patriot's assistant general counsel Drew McCallister the coal company would need to pay for the engineer.
"I don't have the expertise to make a rational judgment on this," Carper said.
If the county commission approves the proposal, it will move to the Public Service Commission for approval. The county commission scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Jan. 9.
Commissioner Dave Hardy recused himself and left the room during the discussion because his law firm has ties to Patriot.