GALVESTON

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.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

(8) comments

Jose' Boix

According to a posted flyer announcing the 2008 Bonds, this is what it listed:
The County has three propositions on the November 4, 2008 ballot. They are:
$75 Million for Road Improvements
$15 Million for Drainage Improvements
$45 Million for Facilities Improvements and New Construction
This total, if my math is correct, comes up to $135M.

Staff
Marissa Barnett

Thanks, Jose'. I had the wrong figure. I will get it corrected. We regret the error.

-Marissa

Jose' Boix

Marissa, Thanks for your note!

Jose' Boix

In support of my earlier comment: Strange bedfellows push for $135M road bond
By T.J. Aulds Oct 30, 2008

Diane Brodie

According to a posted flyer announcing the 2008 Bonds, this is what it listed:
The County has three propositions on the November 4, 2008 ballot. They are:
$75 Million for Road Improvements
$15 Million for Drainage Improvements
"$45 Million for Facilities Improvements and New Construction
This total, if my math is correct, comes up to $135M."
How much is left of the 2008 bonds ($50 mill)? Was the original streets and drainage work done or were we being asked to approve bonds again for the same projects? It seems we might have had better drainage in Harvey if the work had been done with the $135 mill. It sounds like the state legislature on water projects.

Jose' Boix

I think we need to get a detailed report from our Commissioners on all the projects that made up the $135M Bond of 2008. I would like to know: The confirmed list of all projects, date of completion - or when scheduled for completion, actual cost and how effective - specially the flood management projects - were during Harvey. We need to have clear accountability and visibility of these projects. As we move to begin the process of developing the just approved $80 M, we need to expect similar reports - it would be good to have these as they go.

Ron Shelby

Jose, much of this will be dependent upon local governments, available personnel, equipment and resources. But bottom line, IRS Arbitrage regulations ensure the speed with which the funds must be expended (and therefore projects completed), otherwise there are severe penalties for unexpended funds.

Jose' Boix

Ron, thanks for the explanation, but it has been since 2008. All I am asking for is a detailed report of projects, dates completed and actual cost. Here we are as voters not really knowing the balance of the $135M in 2008 and now having approved another $80M. Regardless, there must be some checks and balances; that is all I am asking.

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