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Forsyth bond program targets water, sewer projects
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth County is moving ahead on a $60 million bond program to fund capital improvement projects for its water and sewer department over the next five years.

The county commission voted 5-0 to approve the measure last week. Since it doesn’t involve tax dollars, the bond program doesn’t require the approval of county voters.

Still, the situation is a testament to Forsyth’s credit rating, said Bryce Holcomb, a CitiGroup investment banker who often works with the county.

“The county has worked extremely hard. AAA ratings from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s are very unique,” Holcomb told commissioners. “They’re the very highest rating you can get and that’s certainly always well received in the marketplace.”

Holcomb expanded on the county’s rare standing.

“Rating analysts are basically paid pessimists, they’re going to find something to complain about,” he said. “Moody’s for the first time — and I’ve been doing this now 28 years — said, ‘I have nothing to say. Even if I wanted to make up just to say something to say I can’t. The county looks so good.’”

The bond issue had been anticipated since in 2007 and was expected to happen in 2009 until the economic downturn.

The county decided to move forward with the bonds this year due to historically low interest rates.

“[Since 1986] 20-year bonds rates have been lower than this less than 1 percent of the time,” said David Gruen, finance director for the county.

Tim Perkins, who heads the water and sewer department, is out of the office this week, but has previously said that the bond money would cover about a third of the $173.7 million in projects, with the rest of the funds coming from other sources.

“It’ll just support the funding of our five-year capital improvement plan, along with cash that we currently have on hand,” he said in November. “We already have some [funds]. We have a good bit in cash reserves, along with annual revenues from tap fees and other things.”

“We do generate a good bit of revenue.”

Projects will include water distribution, collection systems and facilities, as well as a possible water intake from Lake Lanier and transportation relocations.

About $83.4 million of the five-year plan is projected to be spent in 2015 and ’16.