The first county bonds approved by voters earlier this month will be issued in December after commissioners on Monday chose which securities and legal firms will be used for the transaction.
The Galveston County Commissioners Court on Monday unanimously selected a senior underwriter and three comanaging securities firms to issue part of an $80 million bond approved by voters and to refinance remaining debt from a voter-approved bond in 2008.
The court named HilltopSecurities the lead underwriter and selected Raymond James Financial, Estrada Hinojosa Investment Bankers and FTN Financial as the co-managers. The firms will be responsible for selling the bonds in the market.
The court voted 3-2 to select Houston-based law firm Bracewell LLP as the disclosure firm for the bond, the entity that ensures compliance with federal Securities Exchange Commission regulations and prepares the offering document. Commissioners Darrell Apffel and Ken Clark voted against the measure in preference of another firm.
The firms will sell about $100 million in bonds, in part to refinance old county debt and to issue new debt of about $47 million for projects approved by voters on Nov. 7, said James Niederle, a financial adviser for the county. The remaining bond debt approved by voters this year is slated to be issued in 2019, he said.
The refinancing at lower rates saves about $3 million in the interest paid on the previous bond debt, Niederle said. County voters in 2008 approved a $145 million bond, which was issued in 2009. The adviser had recommended the county refinance and issue part of the new bonds in December to avoid potential interest rate increases next year, he said.
In recent weeks, commissioners have started prioritizing projects for the bond issue. County Judge Mark Henry said he wanted to see at least some movement on the more than 25 projects voters approved within the next year.
But commissioners have all offered different ideas about which county-initiated projects to get rolling first.
Clark and Apffel want to see projects in the Dickinson Bayou and Highland Bayou watersheds move to the front of the list, they said earlier this month.
As far as county facilities, Apffel, Clark and Henry agreed the medical examiner’s office, which is aging and overcrowded, had a big need, but said the county is still waiting to hear whether the project will qualify for disaster recovery money.
A new community center and justice of the peace building in Bacliff rated high on Apffel’s priorities.
Henry recommended starting work on the county’s road and bridge building in Dickinson, which is more than 50 years old and in need of repairs, he said.
Cities, too, stand to receive a substantial portion of the bond — about $40 million for road projects. The county will provide oversight on those projects because the county holds the debt, but cities still need to determine the timeline of when the projects can begin, Henry said.