Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Local Government Commission Approves Financing for Wilmington Property Purchase

Onslow County Elementary School Construction, New Elon University Housing Also Approved
Raleigh, NC
Jun 7, 2023

Wilmington officials can move forward with the purchase of a 12-story downtown building after Local Government Commission (LGC) members approved financing plans for the $70 million transaction on Tuesday, June 6.

There is not expected to be a tax increase due to buying the PPD building, which sits on a 12.5-acre plot of land in the New Hanover County seat. The city will move several departments out of aging structures and consolidate them into the PPD building. Some of the office space will be leased to commercial interests. The purchase includes 1,500 public parking spaces.

The city will issue $70 million in limited obligation bonds for the project. These are sometimes called revenue bonds because they involve a revenue-producing property from which the bonds are repaid, unlike general obligation bonds that are paid back with tax revenues.

That was among a number of agenda items for the June 6 meeting of the LGC, which is chaired by State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and staffed by DST. The commission has a statutory duty to approve most debt issued by units of local government and public authorities in the state. The commission examines whether the amount of money units borrow is adequate and reasonable for proposed projects and confirms the governmental units can reasonably afford to repay the debt. It also monitors the financial well-being of more than 1,100 local government units. 

Onslow County was given the go-ahead to issue $68 million in limited obligation bonds to build Northeast Elementary School in the Swansboro area, where Tabernacle Elementary School was once located. Elementary schools in that part of the county have crowding issues. The new school will accommodate up to 840 students in 109,000 square feet of space to reduce strain on the other schools. School district officials say Onslow County Schools has grown by nearly 1,600 students since the COVID pandemic, and more than 700 more students are expected to be enrolled for the 2023-24 school year. 

New Hanover County received LGC approval for $25 million in limited obligation bonds to purchase vehicles and equipment for various county departments, and acquire environmental management fund equipment. The money will be used to build and develop Hanover Pines Nature Park; improve and expand county buildings; replace a building housing Sheriff’s Office detective and vice units; and to reimburse the county for its cash payment to acquire a building in which Cape Fear Community College is expanding its nursing and allied health programs. 

LGC members voted to approve a $17.4 million financing agreement sought by Rowan County to acquire, build and install five airport hangars at the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport in Salisbury. No tax increase is anticipated. The county sponsors the fixed-base operator as an economic development creator to expand the tax base. The airport provides corporate and business hangars, commercial aviation fuels, passenger crew services and aircraft storage. 

Orange County received LGC approval to issue $14.5 million in limited obligation bonds, the bulk of which will be for school projects. It will pay for the purchase of county vehicles; roofing, façade and HVAC projects; IT projects; remediation of an emergency services warehouse; communications system and radio upgrades; facility accessibility, safety and accessibility upgrades; and emergency services renewals and replacements. 

The city of Salisbury (Rowan County) was given a green light to enter into a $6.5 million installment purchase to build a 19,000-square-foot fire station to house the office of fire marshal, sleeping quarters for 10 staff members and a two-bed day room to be used to train firefighters. It will replace an existing fire station that is over 40 years old. An installment purchase allows the buyer to make a series of payments on a regular basis instead of all at one time. The buyer enjoys the rights of ownership, while the seller retains the title until the contract is paid off. 

The town of Kernersville (Forsyth County) will expand and renovate its Beeson Crossroads Fire Department facility by adding a second crew to broaden coverage capacity amid economic growth in the area after receiving LGC approval of a $4.5 million installment purchase to pay for the work.  

The city of Rocky Mount (Nash County) will remodel parts of the city warehouse; replace the Business Services Center roof, replace water and sewer lines and renovate other areas; and refurbish the Denton Street Pool and part of the pool house after the LGC approved its $3.1 million financing agreement. 

A number of housing items involving conduit revenue bonds were approved. These allow an entity to issue tax-free municipal bonds whose proceeds are loaned to private companies, nonprofits or public bodies to pay for large projects in the public interest. The projects were for: 

  • Elon University (Alamance County), $37.5 million, to design, build and equip East Neighborhood Commons for additional residential, housing administration and community gathering space. Included will be expansion and renovation of the Gerald L. Francis Center.  
  • Winston-Salem Housing Authority (Forsyth County), $13 million to be loaned to Winston Summit to acquire and rehabilitate Winston Summit Apartments, a 100-unit, multifamily development.  
  • Asheboro Housing Authority (Randolph County), about $10.8 million to be loaned to Asheboro Summit to acquire and rehabilitate the 101-unit, multifamily housing development known as Asheboro Summit Apartments. 

Other requests the LGC approved for water and sewer projects were submitted by: 

  • Town of Laurinburg (Scotland County), $2.6 million.  
  • Edgecombe Water & Sewer District (Edgecombe County), $2.6 million.  
  • Town of Wallace (Duplin County), $1.2 million.