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County approves escrow account for jail bonds

LISBON — County Commissioners are placing $2.48 million from its hefty 2019 carryover balance into an escrow account to make the jail construction bond payments over the next four years.

Commissioners made the transfer on Wednesday without comment, but afterwards Commissioner Mike Halleck explained they made the decision so the county could earn some money from the balance while using it to guarantee they can make the annual bond payments.

Commissioners sold government bonds in the amount of $8.49 million in 1994 to fund construction of the new county jail complex. Halleck said the 30-year bonds are uncallable, which makes the interest rate lower, but it prevented commissioners from paying them off early even though they now have the money to do so.

The annual bond payment is $700,000, and the bonds are due to be paid off in 2024. The move will save the commissioners from taking $700,000 out of the county general fund budget to make future payments.

Commissioners have more than $10 million in unappropriated funds sitting in accounts separate from the county general fund operating budget, and that was before they ended 2019 with a nearly $6 million carryover balance.

Halleck said they decided to use some of the record balance to pay off debt, including the $800,000 remaining from the loan used to pay for the $3 million renovation of the common pleas courtrooms and offices on the second floor of the county courthouse.

In other action at this week’s meeting, commissioners approved the reappointment of county Economic Development Director Tad Herold and retired Columbiana city manager Keith Chamberlain to the county Port Authority board.

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