Sunday, October 31, 2010

 

Water utility to refinance debt with $7M in bonds
Action could enable the purchase of more low-interest bonds to fund Mabank acquisition with only slightly higher-than-current debt payments
By Bill Goheen
Special to The Monitor

GUN BARREL CITY–The East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District board of directors authorized general manager Bill Goheen to pursue a bond issuance and sale in the amount of $6.95 million to refinance some of the existing callable bonds issued in 1994, 1999 and 2001.
The action was part of the board’s regular meeting Oct. 20.
During a one-hour workshop just prior to the board meeting, financial advisor Andre Ayala of First Southwest presented details about and benefits of taking advantage of the current low interest rates and restructuring the district’s debt payment plan.
Ayala said some of the senior bonds are callable, and the difference in the interest points potentially would allow the district to reduce its annual debt payment by $25,000 a year, on average.
This move could enable the district to borrow additional bonds to target the Mabank acquisition at historical low interest rates, and structure the additional new debt into the existing portfolio, only marginally increasing the annual debt payment, which would be slightly higher than what the district’s annual debt obligations are now.
Ayala mentioned the ECCFWSD has an “A-minus” rating with Standard and Poor’s. This investment-grade rating provides the opportunity to sell the bonds on the open market at interest rates below those in place when the original bonds were issued in 1994, 1999 and 2001.
Additionally, current market conditions and ECCFWSD’s existing credit rating allow the district to borrow at interest rates below the current rate offered through the Texas Water Development Board’s Development Fund loans.
Ayala also noted if the refunding sale is achieved, it will provide favorable options for future bond sales – since the district can approach either the Texas Water Development Board or the open market.
If the Mabank acquisition goes through, the higher customer base could increase the district’s potential for a higher rating from Standard and Poor’s, due to the additional cash flow from these new customers.
Goheen said the additional debt, if necessary, would be enough to take care of the immediate needs for Phase 1 of the district’s five-year capital improvement plan.
“We hope the acquisition can go forward for the benefit of the 700-plus customers affected by this delay,” Goheen said. “They would be the ones to suffer, since the City of Mabank would be forced to upgrade their water treatment facility to meet capacity requirements set by TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) much sooner than desired.
“The other option is an unknown cost to them for the development of an entirely new water source facility, pipeline and staffing package,” Goheen added.
During the regular meeting following the workshop, board members unanimously agreed to move forward with the bond issuance and sale of Utility System Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series 2010 and 2010A, which will refund the currently outstanding Series 1994, 1999-A, 1999-B, and a portion of Series 2001.
Board members commented this is a “win-win situation,” and the customers of the district will be the benefactors of the action, if the bond sale is successful.

 

Champion baseball fields under construction
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–It may look like a war zone, but when it’s complete, the city hopes to attract baseball and softball teams from across East Texas to Mabank for tournament play.
George Watts Park in Mabank is getting a major face-lift, with three baseball fields being refurbished, the creek bed widened and straightened and new parking installed.
“I’m going to need a lot of rock (gravel),” public works director Ronnie Tuttle said Wednesday referring to all the parking going in along the roadsides for parking.
Although money was set aside in last year’s budget for the face-lift, city workers were kept busy cleaning out creek beds throughout the town following the completion of a $7 million state drainage and road-widening project.
City administrator Louann Confer said the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget set aside $50,000 for the baseball and softball field upgrade to include adequate lighting for all fields, fenced enclosures and expanded parking. The FY 2011 budget includes $36,000 for park improvements.
The three sports associations using the park (soccer, football and baseball) are all charged a per-participant fee to help offset the energy cost to keep the lights on for night games, Confer said. On other desired park fixtures, the city and sports associations negotiate, she added.
The Mabank Baseball and Softball Association kicked in $6,000 and labor from its members to assist in building two additional fields with fencing.
“We’re doing whatever we can do to assist the city in improving these parks for our kids,” association member Jeff Gaddis said. “We want more outside teams to come, stay in Mabank and play ball with us.
“We’re for anything that will benefit the kids in this area,” he added.
After the creek is widened, Tuttle plans to place footbridges wide enough to accommodate a golf cart, but not vehicles.
In the past, the city has had trouble with vehicles loitering on the back portion of the park, he said.
The park improvements are scheduled for completion before the end of the year, in time for the spring baseball/softball season start.

 

Help with energy costs available for eligible low income households
Special to The Monitor
CANTON–Community Services, Inc. in Canton has paid $105,280 to help needy households with their energy bills. The nonprofit also offers other assistance to eligible households in Van Zandt, Kaufman and Henderson counties, as well as seven other counties.
The Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program still has funds available to assist low-income households in meeting their energy costs through the end of the year.
Funded through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Act, the program has assisted 262 households in Van Zandt County this year with direct payments totaling $105,280 to vendors for electric and gas services.
Priority is given to seniors 60 years or older, persons with disabilities, households with children under age 6, and with high-energy burden and/or high consumption.
Appointments are scheduled between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday by calling 1-800-831-9929, or in Van Zandt County at (903) 872-2880. The office is located at 670 West Dallas Highway, Canton.
CEAP consists of four components. The co-pay component provides case management to households with documented verified income, meeting each month to discuss energy tips used and reduction in energy consumption.
Another component addresses the energy needs of the elderly and those with disabilities, receiving SSA, SSD, SSI; or other benefits based on medical condition. Assistance from this component is determined by previous 12-month billing history, including highest unpaid bills.
The Energy Crisis component offers assistance when temperatures sore above 96 degrees or heat index verified at 95 degrees for period of three days within billing cycle; a disconnect notice must be supported by good faith payment history from energy vendor.
This component also allows assistance with the purchase of installation of window air-conditioner units with medical support of need and temperature documentation. Space heaters may also be purchased with assistance during winter with the above documentation and temperatures 32 degrees or less for three days in home heating billing cycle.
The retrofit, repair or replacement component assesses home appliances to determine energy efficiency of cooling/heating and documented energy burden 11 percent or greater. Appliances determined not energy efficient, are referred for servicing/maintenance, cleaning or replacement.
Water heaters and refrigerators are included in the assessment.
Persons meeting the above criteria are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. The program year ends Dec. 31.
Applicants are encouraged to obtain required documentation before going on-site for assistance.
Only complete applications are accepted.
Application intake takes about 45 minutes per applicant. Individuals should make child care arrangements prior to going into the intake location.
If child care is unavailable, know that only two children per adult are permitted during intake. Energy vendors are contacted after intake in completed to request extensions. Extensions may be granted based on client’s pay, contact history and other criteria.
Valerie Nickerson is the CEAP coordinator, and is available to answer questions at (800) 831-9929.
Clients assisted from CEAP funds are referred to Weatherization Assistance for Low Income Persons, so energy efficiency of their homes may be optimized, reducing total energy costs and improving health and safety.
It is estimated that there are 1.4 million eligible households for the program throughout the state. The WAP application is processed in the Corsicana Office under program director Tim Boyd. He encourages low-income households, not previously weatherized, to contact him for services at the toll-free number previously listed.
Priority is given to the elderly, those with disabilities, households with children under the age of 6 and households with high-energy use or high-energy burdens.
Community Services Inc. is under the executive direction of Pauletta Hines, located at 401 East 6th Ave. in Corsicana at (903) 872-2401.



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