Monday morning Gilmer County refinanced the Courthouse bond saving taxpayers 1.8 million over the next 18 years. The county refinanced one bond at 3.09% that will mature in 2030. Principal amount 16,565,000.00. Suntrust Bank bought the bond.
Chairman Sanford only invited the media for a photo op of him signing a paper two weeks before the election. Sanford could have called a public meeting that would have allowed post commissioners Danny Hall and Dallas Miller to attend along with citizens. Hall is opposing Sanford in the upcoming election for Chair Commissioner.
Sanford’s only official role was to renew the county’s lease with the Building Authority. The refinancing signing was the sole responsibility of Mark Hice, Chairman of the Building Authority.
The credit for the 1.8 million in savings starts with former Commissioner Randy Bell. Bell invited Andrew Tritt with Merchant Capital to a BOC workshop. After waiting three hours Sanford finally allowed Tritt to make a short presentation on refinancing the courthouse bonds at a rate of approximately 2.4%, the lowest rate ever offered in U.S. history. Sanford seemed uninterested. He said he was going to do some research with other companies and wait and see if interest rates might go down even further. At this time the possible savings would have been around $2 million.
Every meeting Bell pushed refinancing the debt. Sanford would not put it on the agenda for a vote. It was clear Sanford was not interested in Bell’s attempt to refinance the debt. Always stating it was complicated and he was researching companies other than the one Bell introduced him to, Merchant Capital.
Bell did not give up. He held several meetings with Tritt and continued to push Sanford for a vote. Sanford refused to put it on the agenda.
After Bell’s death Dallas Miller was voted in to fill Bell’s remaining term as Post One Commissioner. Danny Hall and Miller together pushed Sanford to immediately refinance the debt. Sanford maneuvered around the two, stalling and refusing to put the bond refinance on the agenda. Sanford continued to make excuses at every meeting. By now interest rates had risen significantly and the almost two million dollars in savings had dwindled to less than $350,000.
Hall complained repeatedly about not being able to put bond refinancing on the agenda. Sanford finally stated that he was outnumbered and allowed it to come to a vote. Hall and Miller moved to refinance the debt and Sanford voted yes.
Guess what, the company Randy Bell introduced to the county, Andrew Tritt with Merchant Capital, LLC, is the company that continued to pursue the best deal for the county and eventually ended up bringing an extraordinary deal to the table for Gilmer. Bell, Hall and Miller alone are the ones responsible for the $1.8 million in savings to the taxpayers.
What if the county could have saved an additional $200,000 by refinancing when Bell first introduced Merchant Capital? Does that mean that the taxpayers just paid $200,000 for Sanford’s re-election photo op? If it would have been left up to JC Sanford this would have still been too complicated and the debt would still not be refinanced today.
Hall and Miller were left out of the photo op but you should do the right thing when people are not looking. In fact, when Dallas Miller, newly appointed member to the Building Authority showed up for the 10 AM meeting on Monday, the County Attorney asked him to leave so that JC Sanford could remain. Miller and Sanford can’t attend a meeting together that is not publicly advertised. Mr. Sanford could have signed the lease at any time, or could have signed it and left. Bell always said Sanford acted like a sole commissioner. Hall says Sanford acts like a sole commissioner. All I know is that Sanford made sure he was the sole commissioner in the room.