Board supports three projects for 2014 state bonding bill list

Commissioners back HRA bonds refinancing for Forest Lake project

WashCo_logoThree Washington County projects, two of them transit related, could be included in the state’s 2014-2015 bond cycle after the Board of Commissioners Tuesday supported putting the projects on the state bond funding request list.

In a separate decision, the County Board agreed to back bonds sold by the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority to finance the TrailSide Senior Living project in Forest Lake. The decision followed a public hearing on refinancing the $8.2 million in bonds.

The projects the county wants to include in the state’s next bond cycle are the Gateway and Red Rock corridors and Hastings Bridge Trail.

State law allows local governments and political subdivisions to submit project applications to the state Office of Management and Budget in the year preceding a two-year bonding bill. Once local governments pass resolutions supporting state bond requests and indicate the number of projects submitted, the governor and legislature consider the requests in the 2014 session.

The county seeks $5 million in state bond funding for engineering, environmental analysis and application preparation to seek federal transit administration funds for the Gateway Corridor. The bond request is a down payment for the state’s 10 percent overall share of investment in the corridor and would be used in mid-2014 to prepare a project development application and in 2015 to start the engineering phase.

The county wants $2 million in state funds for pre-design, design and construction of a new Hastings Trail Bridge to close a quarter-mile gap between existing and planned trails in Washington and Dakota counties at the new Hastings Bridge over the Mississippi River.

The gap crosses a set of railroad tracks and has other design and safety challenges, according to Washington County officials. The county is preparing to design the two-mile Point Douglas Regional Trail corridor next year and construct the trail in 2015-2016 using a $1 million federal grant and $780,000 of state Park and Trail Fund grants.

County officials said state bond funds would be used in 2014 and 2015 to incorporate the pre-design, design and construction of the proposed new trail bridge with the Point Douglas trail.

The third request is for $1 million in state bond funds for engineering, environmental analysis and preparation of an application seeking federal transit administration funds for the Red Rock Corridor.

A Red Rock alternative analysis update will be completed by the end of this year. Study results will allow the county to make strategic decisions about corridor development, including additional analysis and environmental work leading to a preferred alternative (LPA) decision. An LPA decision makes Red Rock eligible for bond funds for design and construction money.

Regarding the TrailSide project, the board’s decision came after the HRA board determined it was appropriate to refund the TrailSide bonds.

The bonds used to finance TrailSide were taxable bonds with the U.S. Department of the Treasury issuing a direct payment to the HRA equaling 45 percent  of the annual interest amount. These bonds were created by 2009 federal legislation and the county delegated use of the bonds to finance TrailSide.

The federal sequester resulted in an 8.7 percent reduction in the HRA’s interest subsidy payment  no the bonds. The Treasury Department recently told the HRA that the anticipated $188,688 payment would be $16,414 less.

Refunding the bonds eliminates the risk of the HRA receiving either reduced or no payments from the Treasury Department, according to county officials.