Columbia County Commissioners on Tuesday granted Water and Sewerage Services permission to seek a revenue bond of up to $33 million.
"About every five years or so, we go to the bond market and borrow money to expand the water and sewer systems," Water and Sewerage Services Division Director Bill Clayton said. "We are anticipating doing that again this fall."
Clayton said he wants to get a bond now to lock down a low interest rate.
"What we risk by waiting until the fall is that interest rates will rise," Merril Lynch Public Finance Director Mark Widener said in a presentation to commissioners during their full board meeting Tuesday night.
But the bond loan might not be finalized right away, Widener said.
"All your doing is giving your approval to move forward," he said.
"It'll be late fall or early winter before we pull the trigger and do the bond issue, to get ready for some construction beginning next year," Clayton said.
Clayton would not comment on what the funds from the revenue bond will be used for, saying that a list of projects has not yet been finalized.
"Most of the improvements and expansion will be in the water and sewer collection systems," he said. "The last time we did an issue, we spent most of the money on the treatment plants."
Widener said current interest rates for revenue bonds "are at historic lows" with an average of 4.6 percent.
The bond will be paid back using Water and Sewerage Service revenues.
The water department last secured a revenue bond five years ago for $25 million, Clayton said. He hopes to secure the same amount again this year, although he asked for up to $33 million.
"We're looking more in the $25 million range, but when you do a resolution it doesn't cost anymore to say 'not to exceed $33 million' than it does to say 'not to exceed $25 million,"' he said.
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