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Bond refinancing to save millions

June 17, 2014
By JIM LINETTE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Citing significant savings, Cape Coral City Council unanimously agreed to refinance $30 million in bond obligations.

Finance Director Victoria Bateman laid out the plan for council to refinance a $24 million Gas Tax Revenue Bond taken out in 2009. Three banks made proposals with JP Morgan Chase offering the lowest interest rate of 2.23 percent with the ability to refinance again without penalty after five years. The current bond rate is 3.88 percent. The new rate would save the city $1.7 million through maturity in 2023.

The Gas Tax Revenue Bond provided $30 million for improvements to Del Prado Boulevard north of Pine Island Road to Kismet Parkway, widening Santa Barbara Boulevard from Gleason Parkway to Southeast 8th Street, and intersection improvements at Hancock Bridge Parkway and Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara and Pine Island Road.

A second bond refinance is the Capital Improvement Revenue Bond series from 2005 with JP Morgan Chase also submitting the lowest rate proposal of 2.35 percent accompanied by a five-year refinance without penalty. The bond of $6.1 million currently has an interest rate of 4.37 percent, but a new rate of 2.35 would save the city $30,000 a year until maturity in 2024.

The bond funded $8 million for a new fire station, public art studio and reconfiguration and renovation of a recreational park.

Approving the two accompanying resolutions authorizes the city to lock in the the new rates as of June 16 with an anticipated closing before July 25.

In other actions:

* Council approved the Utilities Expansion Project manager to go forward with hiring a consultant for design services for the North 2 area and the hire of three regular full-time employees to coordinate the $137 million project scheduled to start in 2015. The resolutions were discussed by council at last week's special meeting. The new employee salaries would be paid from utility assessment funds rather than the general fund.

* Council approved an agreement between the city and the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral regarding the 4th of July fireworks celebration. Approval absolves the Chamber, which has agreed to provide volunteers for the event, from any liability.

* Council dealt with personnel hirings and non-bargaining city employee position pay ranges. The panel approved the Financial Services Department to offer up to the maximum of the pay range when hiring three accountants, a debt/treasury manager and a budget administrator.

* Members got an update from Human Resources Director Lisa Sonego on a special committee's study comparing pay ranges with other similar Florida cities. The study so far determined that Cape Coral is 13.7 percent under market rates, which officials say is a contributing factor to why so many advertised position vacancies are drawing so few applicants.

Sonego said the non-bargaining employees make up 9 percent of the city work force, about 90 positions. The pay ranges were last evaluated by council in 2003 and the last adjustment to the ranges was made in 2006. The last time the group received a pay increase was 2007.

Council was not required to act on the data at this time as more study is yet to be completed until after council's summer hiatus.

* Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane made a surprise visit to chambers Monday night to personally thank Mayor Marni Sawicki and council members for their support in the fight for better water quality with governmental agencies since last summer's excessive rains and Lake Okeechobee releases that stained the waters of the Caloosahatchee River and Gulf of Mexico and affected area beaches and tourism.

The effort of five mayors speaking as one with state and federal legislators as well as the Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District has resulted in more than $250 million being allocated to help resolve future incidents.

"We made an impact with the legislators," said Ruane. "We made many friends and Cape Coral had not had a voice in this for years. We need water when it is dry, don't need water when it rains and we're begging for water again. They (SFWMD) have agreed to tweak the policy recently and be flexible with their operational policy."

Florida recently approved $18 million for the C-43 Reservoir project, which could cost more than $600 million.



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