County seeks bond for KiOR levee work

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors is advertising its intent to take out a bond that will not exceed $7.5 million as part of the KiOR levee project.

The funds from the bond will be channeled toward the construction of a levee on the site of the former Belwood Country Club, where KiOR has announced its intentions to build an alternative fuel facility. The property floods during high water events on the Mississippi River, and the county committed to build a levee to protect the land as part of an economic recruitment deal with KiOR.

Board Attorney Scott Slover, to whom the supervisors deferred their comments, said that while the board has advertised its intent to take out as much as $7.5 million for the project, that number is actually a “doomsday scenario” in which cost estimates, grant funding, special loans and certain negotiations with the company all fall through.

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The $7.5 million figure is actually a debt ceiling the supervisors set for the bond, saying they will not exceed that amount, rather than a commitment to spend that much, and Slover said the actual bond the county takes out may not actually amount to that much.

“We wanted to make sure if we are going to build the levee, there will be no problem getting the money for it,” he said.

The county is anticipating the levee will cost approximately $5 million, Slover said.

The supervisors have previously applied for $3 million special Capital Improvements Revolving Loan Program funding through the Mississippi Development Authority, which would be funded at interest rates lower than typical bonds.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the local application for a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration that could provide funding for the project was completed Tuesday.

The grant, which requires a 20-percent match, could provide as much as $4.7 million in funding, Russ said.

“While we feel like (the grant) is a long shot, we think the project fits square within (the EDA’s) guidelines and has merit, and we are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We are going to pursue all avenues of funding in order to reduce our costs.”

Russ said he hopes to hear about the grant application within 30 days, but regardless of its outcome, the project will move forward.

“It is important to know our commitment to provide a levee to KiOR, and anything that we can continue to do to reduce our costs, we will seek that funding,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have to provide a levee for KiOR.”

Slover said the actual amount of the bond would ultimately be determined by how much grant funding and the amount of the MDA loan the county received.

The county has retained financial planner Demery Grubbs and bond attorney Sam Keys as part of the potential bond issuance.